People for the American Way

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People For the American Way
People For the American Way logo 2007.png
FoundedSeptember 4, 1980; 41 years ago (1980-09-04)[1]
FounderNorman Lear
TypeAdvocacy group
Legal status501(c)(4) social welfare organization[1]
FocusProgressive/liberal advocacy
Area served
United States
MethodMedia attention, direct-appeal campaigns
Lara Bergthold[2]
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014)$5,690,909[1]
Employees (2014)

People For the American Way, or PFAW (/'pfɑː/) is a progressive advocacy group in the United States.[4] Organized as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, PFAW was registered in 1981 by the television producer Norman Lear,[5] a self-described "liberal"[6] who founded the organization in 1980 to challenge the Christian right agenda of the Moral Majority.


PFAW was founded by the television producer Norman Lear in opposition to the publicized agenda of the Moral Majority, a prominent and influential American political organization associated with the Christian right.[7] Officially incorporated on September 4, 1980,[1] its co-founders included Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Time Inc. chairman and CEO Andrew Heiskell.[8] PFAW began as a project of the Tides Foundation,[9] a donor-advised fund that directs money to politically liberal causes.[10]

Former presidents of PFAW include Tony Podesta[11] and Ralph Neas.[12]

Soon after its founding, PFAW launched an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization, People for the American Way Foundation, for the purpose of conducting more extensive educational and research activities for liberal causes.[13] Later, the People for the American Way Voters Alliance was launched as a political action committee.[14]


PFAW has been active in battles over judicial nominations, opposing U.S. Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Brett Kavanaugh and supporting the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.[5][15] PFAW is also active in federal elections, donating $339,874 to oppose Republican candidates in the 2014 election cycle,[16] and $351,075 to oppose Republican candidates in the 2016 election cycle.[17]

Right Wing Watch[edit]

PFAW monitors what it considers right-wing activities by sponsoring a website called Right Wing Watch that showcases video footage of groups and individuals who take conservative stances on social issues.[18] The web site was founded in 2007, expanding on PFAW's earlier practice of VHS recording controversial clips from conservative television programs, such as Pat Robertson's 700 Club, for distribution to news media.[19] In 2013, evangelist and politician Gordon Klingenschmitt sent DMCA takedown notices for Right Wing Watch's using clips of his program, in which Right Wing Watch was defended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[20]

In 2014, Jason and David Benham lost the opportunity to host their own HGTV television show after Right Wing Watch labeled the brothers as "anti-gay, anti-choice extremists" because of their statements at various events about homosexuality.[21][22]

In 2018, Jared Holt, a Right Wing Watch researcher, was credited for getting conservative radio show host Alex Jones's InfoWars program removed from multiple content distribution sites, including Apple, Inc, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify.[23][24] Afterwards, Holt said he received death threats.[25]

In June 2021, Right Wing Watch's YouTube channel was permanently suspended for allegedly violating several of YouTube's community guidelines. Right Wing Watch attempted to appeal the suspension, but their appeal was rejected by YouTube. Hours after the ban, the YouTube channel was reinstated after YouTube confirmed that they accidentally suspended the channel.[26]

Right Wing Watch has been quoted by NPR, Fortune, The Daily Beast, HuffPost, and a local Fox News affiliate.[27][28][29][30][31]


Michael Keegan served as the organization's president for 11 years, through June 2020. [32] On June 15, 2020, Ben Jealous succeeded Keegan as president.[33][34] Past and present members of the group's board of directors include John Hall Buchanan, Jr., Alec Baldwin, Seth MacFarlane, Mary Frances Berry, Julian Bond, Bertis Downs IV, James Hormel, Dolores Huerta, Jane Lynch, Josh Sapan, Dennis Van Roekel, Howie Klein and Reg Weaver.[2]


Major donors to PFAW include George Soros' Open Society Institute,[35] the Miriam G. and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund.[36]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "People for the American Way[permanent dead link]". District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Government of the District of Columbia; accessed May 7, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Board of Directors". People for the American Way. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  3. ^ "Staff". People for the American Way. Accessed on May 7, 2016.
  4. ^ Lasley, Thomas J. II (2010). Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent. SAGE. p. 212. ISBN 9781412956642. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b Day, Patrick Kevin (October 7, 2011). "Norman Lear Celebrates 30 Years of People For the American Way". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  6. ^ Yingling, Jennifer (2011-10-11). "At 89, Norman Lear still pushing for the 'American Way'". TheHill. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  7. ^ Reeves, Richard (May 13, 2009). "What is the American Way of Life?". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
    - Djupe, Paul; Olson, Laura (2014). Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics. Infobase Publishing. p. 287. ISBN 9781438130200.
  8. ^ Evans, Will (September 30, 2008). "McCain, GOP Senators Challenged On Pay Equity For Women". NPR. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  9. ^ 1976–2001: 25 Years of Working Toward Positive Social Change. Tides Foundation, 2001. p. 8. Retrieved August 26, 2016. "[Timeline, 1980] ... Norman Lear and others launch a Tides project: People for the American Way".
  10. ^ "History". Tides. Retrieved May 7, 2015. See also, Hewat, N. Campaigning for Educational Policy Reform: An Ecological Analysis of a 'People for the American Way' Grassroots Organizing Phenomenon, doctoral dissertation, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1986.
  11. ^ Miles, Sara. "Do YOU Know Tony Podesta?". Wired. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  12. ^ "People for the American Way President Ralph Neas Discusses Opposition to Ashcroft for Attorney General". CNN. January 16, 2001. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Glanz, James (March 11, 2000). "Survey Finds Support Is Strong For Teaching 2 Origin Theories". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (November 5, 1998). "The 1998 Elections: Congress – The Right; Religious Conservatives, Stung by Vote Losses, Blame G.O.P. for Focusing on Clinton". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2018. The article characterizes PFAW's Voters Alliance as its "new political action committee".
  15. ^ "President Trump's conservative court shift may slow down as liberal judges avoid retirement". USA Today. November 19, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  16. ^ "People For The American Way". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  17. ^ "People for the American Way Outside Spending | OpenSecrets". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  18. ^ Gryboski, Michael (November 21, 2013). "'Right Wing Watch' YouTube Account Again Suspended Due to Fmr. Navy Chaplain's Complaint". Christian Post. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Keegan, Michael. "Right Wing Watch: 10 Years Of Fighting The Right... With Their Own Words". HuffPost. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Attempt to Silence the Political Speech at Right Wing Watch". Electronic Frontier Foundation. December 8, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  21. ^ "HGTV Drops Benham Brothers' 'Flip It Forward' After Anti-Gay Views Are Unearthed". HuffPost. May 8, 2014. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  22. ^ France, Lisa Respers (May 9, 2014). "Benham brothers lose HGTV show after 'anti-gay' remarks". CNN. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  23. ^ Marcotte, Amanda (August 8, 2018). "Meet Jared Holt, the guy who's getting Alex Jones kicked off the internet". Salon. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  24. ^ Bernal, Natasha (August 10, 2018). "The man who sparked the revolt against Infowars and Alex Jones with a single tweet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  25. ^ Bonn, Tess (August 9, 2018). "Researcher who helped kick Infowars's Alex Jones off Spotify received death threats". The Hill. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  26. ^ Baragona, Justin (2021-06-28). "YouTube Bans and Then Unbans Right Wing Watch, a Media Watchdog Devoted to Exposing Right-Wing Conspiracies". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  27. ^ Corbett, Erin (September 2, 2018). "Neo-Nazi Group Targets Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum In Racist Calls". Fortune. Retrieved February 1, 2021. Earlier this year, the podcast sponsored robocalls supporting failed California Senate candidate, white nationalist Patrick Little, according to Right Wing Watch.
  28. ^ Sullivan, Emily (September 3, 2018). "Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum Is Latest Target Of White Supremacist Robocalls". NPR. Retrieved February 1, 2021. The same podcast has also been linked to robocall campaigns in Charlottesville, Va., Oregon and California, according to Right Wing Watch.
  29. ^ Kirell, Andrew (September 20, 2018). "Wayne Allyn Root, Trump's Rally Opener, Is a Conspiracy Theorist Who Thinks the Vegas Shooter Was ISIS". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 1, 2021. “He was murdered because he was the guy that gave all the DNC files to Julian Assange and Wikileaks,” Root asserted on his radio show in June 2018, as Right Wing Watch first reported.
  30. ^ Bernstein, Leandra (September 21, 2018). "Multiple government agencies investigating employees identified in 'Deep State' video". WBFF. Retrieved February 1, 2021. Jared Holt, a research associate at Right Wing Watch, said O'Keefe's focus on a government conspiracy run by Democratic Socialists of America was "laughable."
  31. ^ Mathias, Christopher (September 12, 2018). "Republican Rep. Steve King Retweets A Known White Supremacist On Twitter... Again". HuffPost. Retrieved March 23, 2021. As documented by the site Right Wing Watch, Lokteff is an out-and-proud white nationalist who has talked openly of wanting a white ethnostate.
  32. ^ Kurtz, Josh (June 8, 2020). "A New Gig for Ben Jealous". Maryland Matters. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  33. ^ Marino, Pam (June 2, 2020). "Monterey County native Ben Jealous tapped to lead nonprofit fighting right-wing extremism". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  34. ^ Ford, William J. (June 24, 2020). "Ben Jealous: ‘Racism is Tragic, Racism is Alive’". The Washington Informer. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  35. ^ "Open Society Foundations (OSF)". Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  36. ^ "McCain, GOP Senators Challenged On Pay Equity For Women". Retrieved 2020-06-03.

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