People for the American Way

People For the American Way (PFAW (/'pfɑː/)) is a liberal advocacy group in the United States.[3] Organized as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, PFAW was registered in 1981 by the television producer Norman Lear[4] who founded the organization in 1980 to challenge the Christian right agenda of the Moral Majority.

People For the American Way
FoundedSeptember 4, 1980 (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]
AffiliationsPeople for the American Way Foundation, People for the American Way Voters Alliance, People for the American Way Action Fund
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014)$5,690,909[1]
Employees (2014)


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.[5] Officially incorporated on September 4, 1980,[1] its co-founders included Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Time Inc. chairman and CEO Andrew Heiskell.[6] PFAW began as a project of the Tides Foundation,[7] a donor-advised fund that directs money to politically liberal causes.[8]

Former presidents of PFAW include Tony Podesta[9] and Ralph Neas.[10]

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.[11] Later, the People for the American Way Voters Alliance was launched as a political action committee.[12]


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.[4][13] PFAW is also active in federal elections, donating $339,874 to oppose Republican candidates in the 2014 election cycle,[14] and $351,075 to oppose Republican candidates in the 2016 election cycle.[15]

Right Wing Watch

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19][20]

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.[21][22] Afterwards Holt says he received death threats.[23]

Right Wing Watch has been used as a source on the American right wing by NPR, Fortune, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and Fox News.[24][25][26][27][28]


Michael Keegan is the organization's president. 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, the Miriam G. and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, the Bauman Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund.


  1. "People for the American Way". District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Government of the District of Columbia; accessed May 7, 2016.
  2. "Board of Directors". People for the American Way. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  3. Lasley, Thomas J. II (2010). Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent. SAGE. p. 212. ISBN 9781412956642. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  4. Day, Patrick Kevin (October 7, 2011). "Norman Lear Celebrates 30 Years of People For the American Way". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  5. 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.
  6. Evans, Will (September 30, 2008). "McCain, GOP Senators Challenged On Pay Equity For Women". NPR. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  7. 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".
  8. "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.
  9. Miles, Sara. "Do YOU Know Tony Podesta?". Wired. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  10. "People for the American Way President Ralph Neas Discusses Opposition to Ashcroft for Attorney General". CNN. January 16, 2001. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  11. Glanz, James (March 11, 2000). "Survey Finds Support Is Strong For Teaching 2 Origin Theories". The New York Times.
  12. 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".
  13. "President Trump's conservative court shift may slow down as liberal judges avoid retirement". USA Today. November 19, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  14. "People For The American Way". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  15. "People for the American Way Outside Spending | OpenSecrets". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  16. 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.
  17. Keegan, Michael. "Right Wing Watch: 10 Years Of Fighting The Right... With Their Own Words". HuffPost. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  18. "Attempt to Silence the Political Speech at Right Wing Watch". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  19. "HGTV Drops Benham Brothers' 'Flip It Forward' After Anti-Gay Views Are Unearthed". HuffPost. 2014-05-08. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  20. France, Lisa Respers (2014-05-09). "Benham brothers lose HGTV show after 'anti-gay' remarks". CNN. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  21. Marcotte, Amanda (August 8, 2018). "Meet Jared Holt, the guy who's getting Alex Jones kicked off the internet". Salon. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  22. Bernal, Natasha (August 10, 2018). "The man who sparked the revolt against Infowars and Alex Jones with a single tweet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  23. Bonn, Tess (August 9, 2018). "Researcher who helped kick Infowars's Alex Jones off Spotify received death threats". The Hill. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  24. Corbett, Erin (September 2, 2018). "Neo-Nazi Group Targets Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum In Racist Calls". Fortune. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  25. Sullivan, Emily (September 3, 2018). "Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum Is Latest Target Of White Supremacist Robocalls". NPR. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  26. 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 1 October 2018.
  27. Bernstein, Leandra. "Multiple government agencies investigating employees identified in 'Deep State' video". WBFF. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  28. Mathias, Christopher (September 12, 2018). "Republican Rep. Steve King Retweets A Known White Supremacist On Twitter... Again". HuffPost. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
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