The founder of the far-right group Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, has filed suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating his group a “hate group,” alleging that the label has thrown up roadblocks to his ability to grow his group and monetize his message, according to CNN.
McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media before exiting that company in 2008, has maintained that Proud Boys is not a hate group despite its designation as such by the SPLC and the fact that the social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram have banned the group for its hate speech.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Alabama against SPLC, McInnes alleges that the watchdog organization made false claims about him and the group including that he is antigay, which he denies. He is seeking an unspecified amount in damages claiming that the hate group designation has hurt him financially through a loss of business and that it has harmed his reputation.
"To paraphrase FDR, judge us by the enemies we've made," SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement, adding that the suit was “meritless."
"Gavin McInnes has a history of making inflammatory statements about Muslims, women and the transgender community,” Cohen said. “The fact that he's upset with SPLC tells us that we're doing our job exposing hate and extremism."
The Proud Boys site describes its members as "Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world." The group describes itself as a fraternal group that spreads “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt agenda,” according to SPLC’s site.
Last October, a group of Proud Boys clashed with protesters outside a venue in New York City where McInnes had delivered a speech.
At the time of the clash, members of Proud Boys “took to the streets, brutally beating and kicking several individuals while shouting ‘faggot’ and ‘cocksucker,’ reportedly because one of them stole one of their MAGA hats,” ThinkProgress reported.
Proud Boys were also present at the Unite the Right rally (organized in part by former Proud Boy Jason Kessler) in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly in 2017.
As for McInnes’s claims that he’s not antigay, he deemed Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff untrustworthy because he has “gay face.”
McInnes has also made hateful statements about transgender people, women, people of color, immigrants, and Muslims, much of which are documented on SPLC’s site.
In the suit, McInnes has also called for SPLC to publicly apologize to him and to retract the Proud Boys’ hate group designation, according to CNN.