Some Spokane County voters were greeted with a question when they opened their mailboxes earlier this month.
“Can we trust Larry Haskell?” a mailer sent by the Spokane Community Against Racism Political Action Committee reads. “He’s in bed with white nationalists. Literally.”
The flyer went on to cite articles from The Spokesman-Review, Inlander and Seattle Times about the racist remarks Haskell’s wife, Lesley Haskell, has made on social media for years.
Haskell called the mailer a “political hit piece,” and said SCAR’s views are “baseless” and “entirely untrue,” in a post to his campaign’s Facebook page. Haskell did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
For Jac Archer, an organizer with SCAR, it was important to remind voters of Haskell’s actions.
“County prosecutors are some of the least scrutinized public servants we have while simultaneously being one of the most powerful,” Archer said.
In January, the Inlander reported on Lesley Haskell’s social media posts, including her use of racial slurs for Chinese people, white people, Black people, Latinos, Jews and gay people. She also described herself as a “proud white nationalist.”
Haskell acknowledged his wife has made racist comments, but he doesn’t believe she is racist. He said he does not share her views.
The mailer went on to suggest Haskell has broken the public’s trust by minimizing his wife’s remarks and attending events put on by far-right extremists.
On her Facebook page, Lesley Haskell said all liberal and progressive entities in Spokane are untruthful.
The mailer was full of “several lies, disgusting spins, and defamatory rhetoric,” she wrote, but did not indicate which statements in the mailer she believes to be untrue.
Archer said the goal of the mailer was to remind voters of existing public information on Larry Haskell’s actions and views.
“We wanted people to receive information that they either might not be aware of or need to be reminded of,” Archer said. “It’s about signal boosting important realities.”
Archer challenged Haskell to point to anything on the mailer that was untrue or not backed up by a cited news or opinion piece.
“We’re not coming out with new ideas about who our prosecutor is,” Archer said. “We’re simply drawing people’s attention to information that is already out there.”
The mailer included a story from the Seattle Times that cited legal experts saying his wife’s racist statements damaged the prosecutor’s office’s reputation.
It also pointed to comments made by Lesley Haskell in 2015 that suggested she weighed in on cases prosecuted by her husband and to the Haskells attendance of a Liberty State fundraiser in 2019. Liberty State is a proposal, backed by former state Rep. Matt Shea, for Eastern Washington to secede from Washington to become a Christian conservative state.
The flyer also uses a quote from vice chair of the Republicans of Spokane County, Beva Miles, from the same story on the Liberty State fundraiser.
While Miles did not have problems with the original story in which she was quoted, she feels her quote was taken out of context on the SCAR mailer.
“I’m not very happy about the quote,” she said.
Haskell attending the fundraiser doesn’t mean he shares the views of Liberty Staters, Miles said. The quote wasn’t about Haskell, Miles added. She doesn’t believe Larry Haskell is racist but said she cut ties with his wife over her white nationalist views, Miles said.
While the Republicans of Spokane County endorsed Haskell, Miles personally endorsed Stefanie Collins, one of Haskell’s opponents. That doesn’t mean, Miles said, she doesn’t like Haskell. She said she “admires” how Haskell has handled the controversy with his wife.
The flyer argues Haskell is biased and the county would be better served by someone else.
“Replace Haskell with an unbiased prosecutor in the August election,” the flyer reads.
In his Facebook post, Haskell said he is an unbiased enforcer of the law.
“The SCAR group, despite what they say, does not want an unbiased prosecutor,” Haskell wrote. “They want a prosecutor that is biased and does not follow the rule of law as I do.”
Haskell has repeatedly said he believes the criminal justice system should be race free, something SCAR disagrees with.
Race, just like height, weight, age, gender and other aspects of people’s identity, cannot be removed from the judicial process just like they cannot be removed from people, Archer said.
“Ultimately, the problem is not with considering race or any given personal factor at all. The problem is using those factors as a shortcut to assumptions,” Archer said. “To act as though race doesn’t exist, that isn’t fairness – that is intentional blindness to reality.”
Racial disparities in prosecution are caused by issues “upstream” in the criminal justice system, Haskell has said and aren’t due to any fault of his office.
“You either have to believe that people of color are inherently more criminal or you have to believe that there is something more going on and that is why we’re being put away with extreme disproportionality,” Archer said. “Some people believe that we are the problem, but we don’t. We believe that there is a system that puts people against each other.”
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