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Boehner, Cantor Back Family Research Council Campaign Against SPLC

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As we reported, the SPLC came out with its annual "hate group" list a few weeks ago, which this year included anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, alongside list mainstays like the KKK.

As Evan McMorris-Santoro wrote at the time: "Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington's most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC." And, by proxy, it puts social conservative politicians in this field as well, many of whom attended the FRC's Values Voter summit in Washington this fall.

Unsurprisingly, the FRC was not happy about the designation, and labeled the list "slanderous." And today they launched a "Start Debating, Stop Hating" website, and took out a full page ad in Politco, Dave Weigel reports.

The ad says: "The surest sign one is losing a debate is to resort to character assassination. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal fundraising machine whose tactics have been condemned by observers across the political spectrum, is doing just that."

It continues:

The group, which was once known for combating racial bigotry, is now attacking several groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman. How does the SPLC attack? By labeling its opponents "hate groups." No discussion. No consideration of the issues. No engagement. No debate!

Ironically, the ad argues that "our debates can and must remain civil - but they must never be suppressed through personal assaults that aim only to malign an opponent's character," right after it refers to the SPLC as "the radical Left" that's "spreading hateful rhetoric."

The ad is undersigned by a number of leading Republican politicians, social conservative and mainstream alike: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Sen, Jim DeMint (R-SC), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and even Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

See the full ad here.

In response today, the SPLC put out a statement calling the ad "a remarkable performance, given that it was precisely the maligning of entire groups of people -- gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people -- that caused the SPLC to list groups like the FRC."

"At the end of the day, it's hard to know if the politicians and other leaders who signed today's anti-SPLC statement really know some of things the groups they are throwing in with support. What's a fact is that, despite their claims, the groups have so far, without exception, failed to confront the facts of SPLC's report," the statement said.