Spokane Co prosecutor calls allegations of racism in his office ‘baseless’ despite wife’s racist comments online

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell called a last-minute news conference Friday to defend his office against what he called ‘baseless’ allegations of racism by his office.

Haskell’s public claims come two weeks after The Inlander exposed racist comments made by Haskell’s wife on the website Gab.

After the report surfaced, Haskell apologized for his wife’s comments and distanced himself from her views.

Haskell did not speak publicly about the allegations, though, until Friday.

Friday, he called her comments “racist and reprehensible.”

This comes one day after the Seattle Times reported on the debacle. In that story, a UW professor said this was an unprecedented situation and “creates a fundamental appearance of fairness issue.”

In his news conference, Haskell took umbrage with what he called the innuendo surrounding this situation and allegations that the prosecutor’s office was not properly handling cases and defendants because of race.

“Innuendo is not evidence,” he said.

Haskell said the situation has caused pain among the employees in his office.

“I want to tell you how much pain this has caused. My employees aren’t sure what’s going to happen next,” said Haskell. “I tell them to ‘hold their heads up high’ because they’re doing the right things.”

Haskell said the pain in this community has been measurable, “and I apologize for that.”

Haskell also discussed reporting that claimed racial disparities in the jail existed before he took office in 2015.

“I’m not responsible for the disparities, but I’m willing to have a discussion about them,” he said.

When asked if he thinks his wife is racist, Haskell says he doesn’t think she is. He says he’s known her for 30 years and while the comments could lead people to believe she is racist, he doesn’t think that she is.

He did say that if a deputy prosecutor in his office made these comments, they would be terminated but “that is not a marital relationship.”

While watching the press conference, Kurtis Robinson, the vice president for the Spokane NAACP, had two questions in his mind: What took you so long? And where is the data?

He says Haskell should’ve addressed his wife’s comments before they surfaced a few weeks ago.

“It’s not like this is new behavior with his wife like this is new information that’s put out there. And, it was only eventually that he got called out so many times before he started saying anything about it,” he said.

In the news conference, Haskell said he has a diverse staff in his office, even saying that if needed, he can reach out to one of them and ask for an interpreter if they were in a crunch. Robinson said he wants that data, which he believes should be readily available.

Haskell was asked for that information in the press conference and said the human resources department could collect and send that out if allowed.

While Haskell is now dealing with the aftermath, Robinson said it is important to maintain a “restorative mindset.”

“Restorative mindset doesn’t necessarily mean lack of consequences. There’s always that opportunity to set the ship aright, but there also must be, for our public officials and our officials that not only hold public office but hold extreme power in their public office, they must be held to a higher standard than everybody else. Larry Haskell is no exception,” Robinson said.

You can watch the entire press conference here.