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Civitas does the right thing about its controversial website…sort of

There is good news (at least it appears to be good news) in the saga of the Carolina Plott Hound [1] — a web platform owned and operated by the conservative Civitas Institute that had, among other objectionable things, been linking to an anti-Semitic website that accused attorney General Josh Stein of being part of an international Jewish conspiracy [2]. Yesterday, Civitas executive director Francis De Luca issued the following statement [3]:

“We regret that an error in judgment was made when Carolina Plott Hound shared a link to a blog post that suggested North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein made certain decisions based on his ethnicity and religion. To be clear, Civitas condemns the use of identity politics and believes that assigning the motivations of individuals based upon their membership of a group violates a core conservative principle. As such, the sentiments expressed in the blog post do not reflect our values nor the values of our sponsors and supporters. Neither I nor the organization share these sentiments. We condemn all racism, anti-religious speech and ethnic slurs.

Furthermore, we have reviewed the Carolina Plott Hound website and concluded that it does not fit into the overall Civitas mission to remove government barriers to freedom so that all North Carolinians can enjoy a better life. The site will no longer be operated by Civitas.”

De Luca also told Raleigh’s News & Observer that Civitas would sell the site [4]. Good for Civitas for finally owning up to this — though it should be noted that the Plott Hound has been engaged in this kind of activity for years. One wishes that Civitas and its funders had not kept the group’s connection to the site hidden from public view and taken such action long ago.

[5]At least two things about De Luca’s announcement, however, remain problematic:

#1 – The announcement fails to indicate the name of the individual or individuals responsible for editing the site and, in particular,  posting the anti-Semitic link. Does this person (or do these persons) remain on staff? If so, were they disciplined in any way? Ultimately, the central problem here is not the Plott Hound site itself, it’s that a supposedly responsible conservative organization and its employee(s) generated such trash. Simply ditching the vehicle that they used to serve up bigotry appears to leave the underlying problem unaddressed.

2 – The announcement says only that Civitas will no longer operate the site — not that it will be shuttered. And if it’s going to be sold to someone else, does that mean the buyer will keep serving up the bigoted garbage? Who will Civitas sell to — David Duke?

The bottom line here: The Civitas action is a welcome start, but the group and its funders need to do more (and show more transparency) to prove that they are acting in good faith and have truly turned over a new leaf.