‘Are you going to fire these people or not?’ Hawley demands answers on FBI’s targeting of Catholics

(The Daily Signal) – FBI Director Chris Wray admitted to Sen. Josh Hawley that he has not fired anyone at the FBI’s Richmond office over the memo urging the FBI to investigate “radical…

(The Daily Signal) – FBI Director Chris Wray admitted to Sen. Josh Hawley that he has not fired anyone at the FBI’s Richmond office over the memo urging the FBI to investigate “radical traditional Catholics.”

“You haven’t fired anybody,” Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said to Wray in a Senate hearing Tuesday.

He pressed Wray on the FBI Richmond office’s Jan. 23 memo citing the Southern Poverty Law Center in urging an investigation of “radical, traditional Catholic hate groups.” After a whistleblower published it in February, the FBI rescinded that memo, saying it did not reach the bureau’s standards.

Hawley cited a report that the House Judiciary Committee and the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released on the Catholic memo Monday.

“In fact, what the House found is what is it, you admonished them,” Hawley said. Mockingly, he added, “Oh I feel much better. They’ve been sent to bed without food.”

“Good heavens, director! This is one of the most outrageous targetings,” the senator added. “You have mobilized your division, the most powerful law enforcement division in the world, against traditionalist Catholics—whatever the heck that means—and you have just told us you have not fired a single person.”

He went on to cite the House report, which found that key staff at the Richmond office did not see a problem with the report.

“What are you going to do about this? Are you going to fire these people or not?” the senator pressed.

“Those individuals have all been admonished and it is all going into their… annual performance reviews, which has direct impact on their compensation, among other things,” Wray responded.

“Do you have a problem with systemic bigotry against Catholics at the FBI?” Hawley also asked.

Wray flatly responded, “No.”

The FBI memo urged agents to probe the supposed nexus between “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” and “radical-traditional Catholics,” citing the Southern Poverty Law Center and including a list of SPLC-designated “hate groups” for agents to target.

The FBI told The Daily Signal that it was rescinding the memo after FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published it on UncoverDC.com on Feb. 8. The national FBI office claimed that the memo “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI” and promised to remove the document from its systems and “conduct a review of the basis for the document,” but it refused to answer further questions about the move.

As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it has used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against conservative groups, partially to scare donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence ideological opponents. The SPLC places conservative groups on a “hate map” with KKK chapters.

After the SPLC fired its co-founder amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal in 2019, a former staffer claimed that the SPLC’s accusations of “hate” are a “cynical fundraising scam” aimed at “bilking northern liberals.” Critics across the political spectrum have voiced opposition and alarm at the organization’s hate group smears. A terrorist even targeted an SPLC-designated “hate group” in Washington, D.C., in 2012, and he told the FBI he used the “hate map” to find his target. The SPLC condemned that act of terror, but kept the target on the list and the map.

The SPLC has also suggested that the Catholic Church itself holds a position on human sexuality that would qualify it as a “hate group.”

“The latest revelations only raise more questions about the illegitimate targeting of Catholics by the FBI,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch told The Daily Signal in a statement Tuesday. “We now know that the FBI effort involved at least four field offices, authorized the use of undercover agents to infiltrate Catholic parishes, and used a Catholic priest and a choir director to inform on one of their parishioners.”

“Despite every effort to downplay the significance of this abuse of power, the FBI still owes Catholics and all concerned Americans answers as to who was behind the effort to spy on Catholics, how far and wide this effort went inside the FBI, whether it is ongoing, and whether anyone has been held accountable,” Burch added. “Meanwhile, the Bureau remains grossly derelict in its duty to protect Catholic churches which have been attacked more than 200 times since the leak of the Dobbs decision in May of 2022 and nearly 100 times this year alone.”

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at the Catholic Association and co-host of the radio show “Conversations With Consequences,” called the House findings “a major wake up call to any and all Americans who care about basic civil liberties.”

“While Catholic Churches as well as pro-life pregnancy care centers are under constant attack from actual violent extremists, the FBI had the audacity to investigate and spy on those targeted by these crimes,” McGuire told The Daily Signal. “The notion that traditional Catholics pose some kind of national threat is so absurd it exceeds even Hollywood’s imagination.”