As a progressive political reporter in Colorado, I’ve written several stories in recent years about right-wing pundit David Horowitz, describing him in different contexts as anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, extremist, “hate leader,” and racist, and citing either his own words or the Southern Poverty Law Center’s research as support.
He apparently either didn’t notice or didn’t care until last month when I wrote an article that elicited a demand from Horowitz’s lawyer that I “immediately apologize” and retract my alleged “defamatory accusations.” He threatened to sue the Colorado Times Recorder, where my articles were published, and me personally.
In December 2018, I wrote about Horowitz keynoting Colorado statehouse Republicans’ post-election retreat, in which he chided GOP legislators for being “too damn nice.”
My article, headlined “Colorado Republicans Invite Hate Leader To Speak At Post-Election Retreat,” included a quote from Horowitz, who had responded promptly and politely to my email inquiry. I mentioned him in a couple other articles after that and never heard from him about any of them.
In September of this year, I wrote an article about U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) displaying Horowitz’s book on a shelf behind him during a Zoom meeting. In it, I again characterized Horowitz as an extremist and again emailed him for comment. I asked if he had sent Gardner the book personally. He never replied.
Within a week of publication, however, I received the cease-and-desist letter, demanding that I retract the article and apologize for characterizing Horowitz as anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and racist.
That’s not going to happen.
To be clear, I don’t know Horowitz personally, but I have read many of his magazine articles, opinion pieces, and public statements.
So has the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which provided most of the citations I included with the various descriptive terms to which Horowitz objects.
His attorney dismisses the SPLC, arguing that its conclusions about Horowitz’s own statements are defamatory. I’m not going to regurgitate all of those statements, but he did say, “the Palestinians are Nazis.” He also published this jaw-droppingly Islamophobic article on his website:
Horowitz’s lawyer argues statements such as these, uttered or published by Horowitz, don’t prove he’s anti-Muslim because he’s also said, “There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims, and most are probably good Muslims.”
I’m not the first one to receive this type of letter from Horowitz’s lawyer.
It appears to be a form letter sent to people, news outlets, and other entities that describe him publicly using terms he doesn’t like and cite SPLC’s research as evidence. He sent (a nearly identical version of it) to Brooklyn College in 2016 and to CNN in 2017. Former Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Taylor received one in August 2018, after writing, along with progressive researcher Lisa Graves, an article that mentioned the very same news I cited in my 2018 article–that numerous national corporations disavowed the American Legislative Exchange Council for inviting Horowitz to speak at its conference.
An attorney for Taylor and Graves had a similar assessment of Horowitz’s letter as attorneys I consulted.
“Were your client to bring a suit for defamation against Representative Taylor or CMD [Center for Media & Democracy, Graves’ organization], it would be dismissed as frivolous and they would seek attorneys’ fees and expenses,” wrote attorney Lester Pines.
It’s unclear if Horowitz himself has ever sued SPLC directly for the defamation he alleges, but others have, and it hasn’t worked. Last year a federal judge dismissed such a lawsuit by an anti-LGBT ministry in Florida. From the ruling:
“If Coral Ridge disagrees with the ‘hate group’ designation,” Judge Thompson wrote, “its hope for a remedy lies in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ not a defamation action.”
As merchants in that same marketplace, the Colorado Times Recorder has no intention of retracting any of our articles mentioning Horowitz.
And to help the marketplace of ideas thrive, I offer Horowitz the opportunity to send us his opinion for publication, as we offered prior to publishing our last article about him.
Read the full text of Mr. Horowitz’s letter to the Colorado Times Recorder below (Included with the letter was a pamphlet titled, “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Hate Machine.):
Re: Defamatory statements regarding David Horowitz
Dear Mr. Maulbetsch:
This firm represents David Horowitz regarding the malicious and defamatory claims you have made about him in your September 30, 2020 article in the Colorado Times Recorder, entitled “Cory Gardner’s Zoom Room Appears to Include Book by Racist Extremist David Horowitz.” Without any factual support whatsoever, you falsely claim in your article that Mr. Horowitz is:
There is not a shred of truth to these defamatory accusations. You cite the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) as the source of your claims, citing various of the allegedly “worst” statements by David Horowitz, which include his arguments that blacks are not oppressed, that reparations for slavery are not a good idea, that Palestinian leaders support terrorism, and other mainstream conservative arguments and statements that most reasonable people would not find “racist” at all, but simply a part of everyday political debate in America today.
You have adopted false claims by the SPLC that David Horowitz is “anti-Muslim” and espouses “radical ideologies”. On October 30, 2016, Tablet Magazine published on an article exposing the SPLC’s blacklisting of David Horowitz and other writers and intellectuals. The article, called “A New Blacklist From the Southern Poverty Law Center Marks the Demise of a Once-Vital Organization,” is written by Lee Smith, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow af the Hudson Institute. (See attached article.)
Lee’s article, which has been publicly available for four years, outlines in detail how the SPLC, who once valiantly fought against violent supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and defended those advocating non-violence, has turned on advocates of non-violence, like Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim who is working within his Muslim community to push back against extremism. Nawaz frequently insists that “Islam is a religion of peace,” but because he is critical of those within his own faith who preach violent resolution of conflicts, the SPLC targets him and others on SPLC’s blacklist as being anti-Muslim extremists. Why is the SPLC labeling a Muslim peace advocate as “anti-Muslim and “extremist”?
Instead of defending Nawaz’s advocacy of non-violence and diversity of thought, the SPLC is “now aggressively defending the kind of violent supremacists it had once sought to prosecute, and is attacking types like Nawaz it had once defended against violence.” Lee’s article explores several reasons for the SPLC’s betrayal of its prior mission, suggesting that the blacklist has nothing to do with real anti-Muslim extremism and is simply being used to smear political enemies whose ideas run counter to the SPLC’s. I am further enclosing with the original of this letter a copy of a pamphlet entitled “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Hate Machine,” by John Perazzo.
For more than a decade, David Horowitz has been at the top of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s dubious hate lists, where he is described as an “extremist, “a “hatemonger,” and “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-Black movements.”1 He is further described as an “anti-Muslim fanatic” and “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in America,” a slander that has put a veritable target on his back.2 These statements are all easily demonstrable lies about David Horowitz’s views. In the last 18 years, he has written and spoken more than half a million words, including the 2004 book Unholy Alliance, about Islam and the Islamic jihad. These are readily available in print and on the Internet. Yet the SPLC researchers could not turn up a single sentence that a reasonable person would describe as “anti-Muslim.” In fact, in speeches and writings available to anyone on the Internet, Horowitz has made it clear· that he is not anti-Muslim at all.
In 2009, for example, David Horowitz gave a speech at USC, which is recorded on YouTube and is online at Frontpagemag.com, and is available in his book, lslamo-Fascism and the War Against the Jews (2014). In the speech he says: “Here are my views concerning Muslims: There are good Muslims and bad Muslims, just as there are good Christians and bad ones, good Jews and bad Jews. Most Muslims are like everybody else; they want peace, and are law-abiding. Probably their religion is very personal to them, and doesn’t involve efforts to convert and subordinate or kill others. There is a difference between religious institutions and the religion of individuals. Many Catholics do not follow church doctrine on birth control and abortion, for example. The Ku Klux Klan is a Protestant Christian organization, but virtually all Protestants and their churches condemn the Ku Klux Klan.” (Emphasis added.)3
In 2012, David spoke at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. There was a demonstration inside his talk by Muslim Students, who walked out in protest soon after he began. David’s comment was this: “It is too bad that all our Muslim friends have left the room and did not stay to hear this; but notwithstanding the evil intentions of Muslim leaders in the Middle· East, there are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims, and most are probably good Muslims – decent, law-abiding, desirous of peace.” (Emphasis added.)4
On virtually every campus. David Horowitz has spoken at in the last ten years, he has repeated these words. Nonetheless, his speeches have also been preceded by flyers and handouts filled with SPLC slanders against him, including the slander that he is “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in America.” These slanders are featured in college newspaper accounts of David’s visits, reaching tens of thousands of members of the academic community. This is an experience shared generally by conservatives like Heather MacDonald, Milo Yiannopoulos and many, many others.5
David Horowitz has in fact organized protests on more than 100 college campuses against the oppression of Muslim women. He has published booklets against the oppression of Muslim women. He has sponsored panels with Muslim speakers against the oppression of Muslim women. There are numerous videos of his campus speeches on the Internet where he can be seen saying that his efforts are not directed against all Muslims, but are conducted on behalf of most Muslims against the hijacking of their religion by totalitarian radicals who are conducting a campaign of hatred against Jews, gays, and other minority groups.
Very few people have done as much as David Horowitz to expose the ongoing oppression of Muslim women, Jews, gays, and other minorities in Middle Eastern countries, which should have been self-evident to you from news stories demonstrating large-scale murder and repression of Muslims by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. David’s research and exposure of the abuse of minority groups at the hands of extremist elements in Muslim countries should be a legitimate part of any dialogue on a university campus concerned with Middle East conflicts. Your September 30 article’s utter disregard of David’s long history of work on behalf of persecuted minorities reveals your malice towards him.
The charge that David Horowitz is a “anti-immigrant” is also without merit, and merely reflects the left’s refusal to distinguish between legal immigration, which conservatives like Horowitz support, and illegal entry into the United States, which they oppose.
The SPLC “Hate Watch” also describes David Horowitz as “anti-black.” This is equally specious but even more personally unpleasant for David since he has immediate family who are black. For over sixty years, David’s public life has been dedicated to fighting for the civil rights of black Americans. He has written scores of articles, and three books on race – Uncivil Wars: The Controversy Over Reparations for Slavery (2001), Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes (1999) and Progressive Racism (2016). Each of them is guided by the vision of Martin Luther King that people should be judged on their merits and ndt on theirskin color.
Although David Horowitz has written and published over a million words, there is not a single sentence of his that could qua.lify as “anti-Muslim” or “anti-Black” racism. Nor do you quote any statements that a reasonable person would find racist. You are unable to cite any credible source showing that David is racist, anti-Black, or anti-Muslim. Yet you describe him as an anti-Muslim racist. This shows knowing malice on your part.
Accordingly, David Horowitz demands that you immediately apologize and retract your defamatory accusations and that you cease and desist from further publication of such defamatory claims, either on-line or in print. David assumes you have an interest in the truth, and respect for the nation’s libel laws.
Although he would prefer to resolve this matter on an .amicable basis, David reserves the right to exercise all his civil remedies to limit any damage to his reputation resulting from your continuing violation of his rights. Continuing publication or republication of such pernicious falsehoods will also demonstrate your malicious intent and will support the imposition of punitive damages against the Colorado Times Recorder and you personally.
HOFFMAN LEGAL CORPORATION
Paul A. Hoffman
Individual Rights Foundation affiliate counsel
1. https:/ /www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/david-horowitz
3. David Horowitz, The Black Book of the American Left, Vol IV: /s/amo-Fascism and the War Against the Jews, 2014, Part 1, Ch. 16 “Jew Hatred at USC,” p. 1434. David Horowitz, The Black Book, op. cit., Part Ill, Ch. 10, “A Malignant Cause,” p. 312
5. For a sample, see https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/271895/dartmouth-nightmare-david-horowitz