CNN's Pilgrim left unchallenged guest's false claim about Ford, Rockefeller foundations
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, author Phil Kent asserted that "back in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union, of all people, rejected some Ford and Rockefeller grants because of fear of terror links." Guest host Kitty Pilgrim did not challenge the claim. In fact, the ACLU has stated that it rejected funding from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations because their "restrictive funding agreements ... might adversely affect the civil liberties of the ACLU and other grantees."
During the September 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host Kitty Pilgrim did not challenge guest Phil Kent's false claim that "back in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], of all people, rejected some Ford and Rockefeller grants because of fear of terror links." Kent is the author of the book Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal $uper-Rich Undermine America (Zoe Publishing, 2007). Responding to Pilgrim's question about why he considered the "agenda" of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and other large charitable foundations to be "anti-American," Kent also asserted: "[I]t's gone beyond even the liberal charitable giving, which is fine. I'm talking about big foundations like the Ford Foundation, when they give to radical Islamic charities." In fact, the ACLU did not say that it "fear[ed]" "terror links" to the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. Instead, it stated in an October 17, 2004, press release that it was rejecting funding from those two foundations because their "restrictive funding agreements ... might adversely affect the civil liberties of the ACLU and other grantees."
During the segment on-screen text read: "Are Wealthy Liberal Elites Destroying America?"
In his book, Kent also claimed that the ACLU "rejected" Ford and Rockefeller foundation funding due to their alleged ties to terrorism. From Page 60 of Foundations of Betrayal:
Ironic, too, was that in October 2004 the ACLU -- of all outfits -- was also feeling the heat. It made headlines by rejecting $1.15 million from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, saying it wanted to ensure that none of the money underwrote terrorism. The ACLU also returned $68,000 it previously accepted from Ford for the same reason.
But, contrary to Kent's claim, the ACLU did not "reject" the Ford and Rockefeller foundations' monies because "it wanted to ensure that none of the money underwrote terrorism." Rather, the organization objected to "vague grant language which could have a chilling effect on civil liberties." The ACLU continued: "But the ambiguities [in the grant language] are simply too significant to ignore or accept. They include potential prohibitions on free speech and other undefined activities such as 'bigotry' as part of a misconceived war on terror. Indeed, vague terms such as 'bigotry' often have charged meanings in a post-9/11 world." The New York Times reported that "Ford's grant agreement, which governs the use of the money it gives to more than 4,000 organizations it supports, says, 'By signing this grant letter, you agree that your organization will not promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state, nor will it make subgrants to any entity that engages in these activities.' "
From the ACLU press release:
It is a sad day when two of this country's most beloved and respected foundations feel they are operating in such a climate of fear and intimidation that they are compelled to require thousands of recipients to accept vague grant language which could have a chilling effect on civil liberties. But the ambiguities are simply too significant to ignore or accept. They include potential prohibitions on free speech and other undefined activities such as "bigotry" as part of a misconceived war on terror. Indeed, vague terms such as "bigotry" often have charged meanings in a post-9/11 world. The ACLU cannot effectively defend the rights of all Americans if we do not stand up for those same rights ourselves.
As painful as this is financially -- the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations have been true friends and allies -- this is the right decision. Ironically, the funding from each organization would have strengthened our ability to fight the most dangerous elements of the Patriot Act and the government's war on terror.
Let us be clear, we do not support terrorism. We all have a role to play in protecting our country from those who would harm us further. But we should not trample -- or allow others to trample -- on our most valued principles that have made us the beacon of freedom around the world. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure an America that is both safe and free.
Later during the interview, Pilgrim pointed out that "Conservatives have their own foundations. You don't seem to take issue with conservative foundations." Kent responded "No. And, actually, I don't have a problem with liberal or conservative foundations. The subtitle of the book, Kitty, is 'Undermining America,' and that's what I have a problem with." Pilgrim then asked if "all conservative foundations ... pass your test?" Kent responded: "I don't see any of these foundations undermining free enterprise or our sovereignty or really promoting open borders or funding radical Islamic charity. So, yes, the conservatives passed the Phil Kent test." However, Pilgrim, who had introduced Kent solely as an "author" did not note that the nonprofit Kent previously headed, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, has received substantial funding from conservative foundations -- such as The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Armstrong Foundation -- even though Kent noted that he had "been a president of a 501(c)(3) foundation."
According to his biography, Kent "was president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, an Atlanta-based constitutional public policy law firm, from April 2001 to June 2003." During that time, the Southeastern Legal Foundation received at least $598,000 from the aforementioned conservative foundations, according to the Media Transparency website.
From the September 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
PILGRIM: Author Phil Kent says wealthy liberal elites are destroying this country, and he makes these claims in a provocative book. And I asked him why the 16,000 tax-exempt foundations with assets of $550 billion pose a threat to America.
[begin video clip]
KENT: It is a wonderful thing. And, you know, many of these big foundations -- Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Pew, McArthur -- all founded by the captains of capitalism. What's happened, though, with these huge endowments -- they're not going, in all too many cases, for education and medicine and good, charitable giving. There's a radical agenda that I underscore in my book.
PILGRIM: You know, let me just read a passage from your book. It's one of the real issues that you have. And mostly you take issue with the power that these foundations have. And here's the quote: "It is their amazing clout that is cause for concern, and the anti-freedom and even anti-American agenda many pursue should make patriotic Americans angry." Why do you call it anti-American?
KENT: Well, you know, it's gone beyond even liberal charitable giving, which is fine. I'm talking about big foundations like the Ford Foundation, when they give to radical Islamic charities. You know, it's pretty sad when back in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union, of all people, rejected some Ford and Rockefeller grants because of fear of terror links.
PILGRIM: Phil, you know, I have to tell you, the last time you were on the program, you took issue with the Ford Foundation. They did respond. So I would like to read what they have said, and then we'll get your response to that. The Ford Foundation -- this was the Ford Foundation who wrote to us in 2007: "The Ford Foundation would never support groups or organizations involved in violence or terrorism and there is no evidence to the contrary. The work of our grantees in the midst of conflict is aimed at building greater respect for democratic values, human rights and peace." That seems to be the sort of Ford Foundation that we all assume is functioning.
KENT: Well, you know, it was the Ford Foundation of many years ago that's morphed. Now, yes, they've done some wonderful work with some of their wonderful grants. But, let's talk about the Al Mazen Center, that was funded from 2001 to 2003, which provided support to Palestinian suicide bombers.
Let's talk about the admission they made to Congressman Jerrold Nadler that maybe we shouldn't have funded that 2001 United Nations so-called Committee -- conference on racism, which George Will and others called a U.N. orgy of hate against the U.S. and Israel. So Ford has never apologized. They funded that conference. They'll probably be funding another one. They never addressed that in their statement, which I consider is a badge of honor. I'm glad they attacked me and the book.
PILGRIM: All right. Well, they clearly have. Conservatives have their own foundations. You don't seem to take issue with conservative foundations.
KENT: No. And, actually, I don't have a problem with liberal or conservative foundations. The subtitle of the book, Kitty, is "Undermining America," and that's what I have a problem with. And it was so underreported. That's why I wrote the book, and that's why I'm glad you're focusing on it.
PILGRIM: So you say all conservative foundations are -- pass your test?
KENT: I don't see -- I don't see any of these foundations undermining free enterprise or our sovereignty or really promoting open borders or funding radical Islamic charities. So, yeah, the conservatives passed the Phil Kent test.
PILGRIM: All right. Let me ask you another thing. Now, Congress does not seem to be interested in taking up reforming foundations. So there are 16,000 of them. I think it would be a Herculean task. And the last oversight hearings on foundations were in the -- correct me if I'm wrong, you're the expert -- but in the '50s and '60s. Why do you think you're one of the few people in the country who's raising this issue?
KENT: Well, when you look at the vast amounts, again, of the assets -- when you started the program, you wonder, how is it being spent? Are we violating IRS rules? Are we violating donor intent? It's great for Congress to do oversight in this area -- Democrat, Republican, independent.
And, you know, Kitty, it's great that the attorneys generals of all 50 states, a lot of them, are starting to get involved. In Michigan, the Ford Foundation is currently being investigated by the attorney general that state, Mike Cox. And, you know, I think it's helped a little bit. Ford is actually -- get a load of this, helping charities back in Detroit, the poorest city in the country -- and some of the traditional charities in Michigan that they should have been funding all along.
PILGRIM: So you think that a review of foundations would actually help them to pick better projects to fund?
KENT: Absolutely. I've been a president of a 501(c)(3) foundation, and there's certain rules you have to go by, including no partisan politicking. Many of these are violating that rule, and that's why I call for reform and oversight. And a lot of liberals join me in this, too.
PILGRIM: You call it invisible government. Do you think the political establishment is willing to give up this invisible government?
KENT: Well, you know, it's an invisible government because they work with their allies in the media and in the regular government as a battering ram under the guise of charity. And they have their agendas, as you know, Kitty -- the open borders agenda, the radical green agenda, and as we've talked about, funding very questionable radical Islamic charities.
PILGRIM: Thank you. Phil Kent, the author of Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America.