The power of (mis)quotations

Quotations allow the reader to hear a story in the teller’s own words, with their true voice and passion. They are a window to the speaker’s soul.

And therein lies their power. When people read a quotation, they assume it is a faithful reporting of the speaker’s words.

Whenever we quote, edit or otherwise interpret what people tell us, we aim to be faithful to their meaning, so our stories ring true to those we interview.
NPR Ethics Handbook

But what if your goal is to portray a respected animal lover as a cold, animal-hating psychopath?

If you’re Richard Berman and his hired guns, you lie.

Time after time, Berman and his smear campaigns have twisted quotes from animal activists into something unrecognizable. Consider this interview on with Wayne Pacelle on Iowa Public Radio:

Whatever your motivation for having the animal, whatever the use, you’ve got a responsibility to provide lifetime care… But if you can’t provide care for the horses, then you euthanize the animal. You can euthanize them by bringing a veterinarian out, or you can even shoot an animal in the head. We’re not saying that animals have to live indefinitely, and you have to make heroic efforts to extend the life of every animal. We’re saying that creating a commercial incentive to slaughter horses, and then having people opportunistically or disreputably gather them up, funnel them into the horse slaughter pipeline, is really catching perfectly healthy horses into the slaughter pipeline.

USDA says 92% of the horses sent to slaughter are perfectly healthy animals. This is a commercial enterprise, and we wouldn’t do this to dogs and cats. Would we set up a plant outside of Des Moines or Cedar Rapids to kill the unwanted dogs and export the meat to some foreign country? No! We would be outraged, because we have values about these animals.

Now, if you’re a credible source, you provide enough of the quote to give the reader context. But if you are CCF’s HumaneWatch, you do this:

Wayne Pacelle’s vision for horses: “Shoot [a horse] in the head.”*
Iowa Public Radio, July 2013

When one Stop HumaneWatch reader posted Pacelle’s quote in its entirety to the HumaneWatch Facebook page, they were immediately blocked by the page moderator. Clearly, the intent was not to convey Pacelle’s words; it was to deliberately misrepresent what he said. And that’s a dishonest tactic they frequently rely on.

Deception and distortions of this kind are one of the primary weapons of Berman’s smear campaigns, but they only work when the readers are unfamiliar with Berman’s legacy of deceit. That’s why we’re unveiling a series of graphics exposing another unethical weapon in Berman’s arsenal of character assassination. Each graphic in the series will highlight a different deceptive scheme, perfect for reposting under a Berman op-ed, letter to the editor, or in response to a HumaneWatch supporter who may not understand the false nature of that smear campaign.

Please feel free to save these graphics to your hard drive, link to them directly on this site, or share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I do get annoyed when reporters take my comments out of context in order to suit their agenda.
— Richard Berman, The Food Channel, October 6, 2010

View and share previous weeks’ graphics from our Resources page.

Berman’s Vermin

The Center for Consumer Freedom (which runs HumaneWatch) recently purchased a full-page ad attacking the Humane Society of the United States. Of course the ad –- published in The Washington Examiner — was filled with the usual array of half-truths, innuendo, and misleading statements that Richard Berman specializes in.

We don’t have a multi-million dollar budget paid for by disreputable corporations, but when Rick Berman throws a hand grenade, we’re happy to pick it up, pull the pin, and throw it back.

We therefore present Berman’s Vermin, a factual, seven point examination of Richard Berman and his unsavory tactics. Many people wrongly assume that HumaneWatch is a watchdog group, or that it is concerned about animal welfare. Please share this graphic on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to help set the record straight!

Download in JPEG or PDF format.


Rick Berman profits from nonprofits

Nonprofit regulations are intended to ensure that nonprofit organizations exist for the public benefit, and not for the enrichment of its creators.

But when Richard Berman creates nonprofit organizations with a dubious purpose, and diverts tax exempt donations into his own coffers, he circumvents the accountability that’s meant to protect the public from fraud and abuse.

That’s why Marcus Owens, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, says that Berman’s evasive scheme “clearly, in my view, is operating for his private benefit and for the private benefit of his clients… [That’s] a clear violation of the requirements for tax-exempt status.”

We tallied the payments to Berman and his for-profit PR firm from six of the nonprofit front groups he has created: the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), Center for Union Facts (CUF), Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPI), American Beverage Institute (ABI), Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC), and the Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP).

The results are shocking.

Payments to Richard Berman or Berman and Company, Inc.


Since 2002, Rick Berman has diverted over $35 million in supposedly nonprofit donations into his personal and corporate bank accounts. In some years, as much as 93% of an organization’s revenue has been funneled into personal gain.

Berman has not yet been held accountable for his abuse of nonprofit tax code. It’s a sad indictment of the Internal Revenue Service, its inability enforce its own regulations fairly and consistently, and its unwillingness to protect consumers.

To the see the raw numbers we used, consult the Form 990 tax returns for Berman’s organizations. These forms are gathered for your convenience in our Document Library, or you may obtain them from independent charity evaluators like

The relevant figures used in this table are:

  • Gross Receipts: Line G
  • Berman’s token salary: Part VII, Section A
  • Funds diverted to Berman and Company, Inc.: Part VII, Section B (Independent Contractors)
  • Grants to Berman-run organizations: Schedule I

Further reading

Maternity Pens: Lipstick on a Tortured Pig

Who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around?Imagine spending your life crammed into a space about as big as an airline seat. Imagine not being able to turn around, to roll over, or to stretch your limbs comfortably. Imagine being so frustrated and stressed by being forced to live like this that you bite the bars of your cage (because that’s the only thing you can get to) until your mouth bleeds. Imagine the suffering… For millions of pigs in gestation crates, this is not make-believe. It’s how they are forced to spend most of their lives, day in, and day out, for months at a time. As you may already know, gestation crates are intensive confinement systems used in hog farming. They’re used to restrain a pregnant sow until she gives birth. Gestation crates typically measure 2 x 6.6 feet, barely larger than the sow. Since the purpose of a factory farm sow is to produce litter after litter, as often as possible, this is where she will spend most of her life — until the final few months when she is fattened for the walk to the slaughterhouse floor. Agricultural industry groups attempt to defend the cruelty of gestation crates by claiming that they are superior to group housing. But the research does not support their point of view. In fact, agricultural expert Temple Grandin unambiguously rejects gestation crates:
We’ve got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go… Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.
In industrial agriculture, profit is paramount. Factory farmers prefer gestation crates because they are cheaper and easier to work with than alternative methods, such as group housing. The well-being of the sow is only a concern insofar as keeping the animal alive, and the psychological and physical trauma is irrelevant, as long as the meat is marketable. Yet consumer sentiment is firmly against gestation crates. Two thirds of California voters chose to ban intensive confinement systems. And voters have gotten their representatives to ban gestation crates in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Ohio. And, more and more, retailers and wholesalers are listening. Hundreds of food product producers and food buyers are eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains, including ConAgra, Aramark, Costco, Sysco, Sodexo, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Applebee’s, IHOP, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Co., Hillshire Farms, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Denny’s, and many more. In April of 2013, every leading Canadian retailer signed onto an agreement to eliminate gestation crates. Even companies that once paid Richard Berman to shill for them are paying attention. Former Berman financer, Wendy’s, is abandoning gestation crates and moving to more humane production methods. But Big Ag is not listening. Big Ag, stubbornly resistant to the winds of change, wants to cling to outmoded, inhumane methods of production in the face of impending reforms. They refuse to even try to change. Instead, they plan to change the way we think about the suffering of sows in gestation crates. How? By reframing the issue. By putting lipstick on a tortured pig. Richard Berman has been spending a great deal of time with pork producers, urging them to rally the troops and defend against animal welfare. The first phase of Berman’s strategy is a campaign to whitewash the cruelty of gestation crates, starting with the name. He suggests “maternity pens,” a warm and fuzzy name for a decidedly cold, harsh practice. The goal is to frame gestation crates as loving, nurturing environments, and to downplay the reality of pressure sores and bloody concrete. It is, in a word, hogwash. You can stop him. When you see the misleading term “maternity pens”, make sure everyone reading understands who is behind the propaganda, and what it defends: the cruel, lifelong confinement of sensitive and intelligent animals in a claustrophobic cage. Berman’s campaigns rely on ignorance to spread. Counter them with the facts. For more on gestation crates:

Charity Watchdog Issues Donor Advisory for Center for Consumer Freedom

After evaluating Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) tax returns, Charity Navigator has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a Donor Advisory. The Donor Advisory states that “the majority of the Center for Consumer Freedom’s program expenses are being directed to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company.” As readers of this site and our Facebook page know, Richard Berman is also the mastermind behind the anti-animal welfare group, HumaneWatch. Charity Navigator has something to say about HumaneWatch, too:
…out of total program expenses of $2.4 million, $1.7 million is going directly to Berman and Company. The document (IRS Form 990) also revealed that program expenses were for ‘maintaining a dynamic website’ and ‘founding’ when all of the money was given to Berman and Company (a for-profit firm). The document does not reveal how much revenue the for-profit gained from this arrangement.
The Donor Advisory then warns prospective donors:
We find such practices atypical as compared to how other charities operate and have therefore issued this Donor Advisory.
The CCF joins other questionable charities spotlighted by Charity Navigator for their conduct. These shady organizations include the “Coalition for Breast Cancer” (whose directors pleaded guilty to grand larceny, scheming to defraud and falsifying business records), “Disabled American Veterans” (a fake charity whose creator was sentenced to 10 years in prison for felony embezzlement), and Child Foundation (whose founder plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges). The CCF has yet to face criminal charges for funneling nonprofit funds to its for-profit counterparts. However, this Donor Advisory may serve to protect unwary donors who might be deceived by unscrupulous front groups posing as legitimate charities.