To begin with, she used the N-word.
Not in the sense of quoting a racist, or singing along to a rap song, or reading To Kill A Mockingbird, or even debating whether it was acceptable to use the N-word. In the sense of calling a Black woman a racial slur.
In reaction to a New York Post story, "MSNBC’s Joy Reid: Conservatives would trade tax cuts to ‘openly say the N-word,'" Gab user Lesley Anne Haskell declared that Reid was "the true definition of the word" and then explicitly typed out the slur.
Gab is a social media platform launched as a less restrictive alternative to Facebook and Twitter. And Haskell appeared to relish that, posting an image proclaiming that on Gab it was "perfectly OK and legal" to use racial slurs for Black people, Chinese people, White people, Hispanic people, Jewish people, and gay people, and if people didn't like it, they "aren't ready for free speech" and shouldn't "try to change how we do things."
Gab has quickly become a pit of misogyny, antisemitism, and White nationalism.
Indeed, on multiple occasions on Gab, Haskell describes herself as a "proud White nationalist," though takes pains to insist she is not a "White supremacist."
In another post, she defines "White nationalist" merely as being "proud to be White and proud of my nation." The more accepted definition of White nationalist is more pernicious: a White supremacist ideology focused on maintaining White racial dominance in a country or region.
This kind of White nationalist is obsessed with White birth rates, for example. So is Haskell:
"Our race is dying, we need to make more White babies!" Haskell writes in another post.
She reposts Gab users saying things like, "Moral Whites have been too nice for far too long... why are we now the only group that is not permitted a voice... a homeland... identity?" and "Whites are the ones who are under attack in this country."
And she repeatedly shares the posts of the most prominent White nationalist of the moment, Nick Fuentes as he says things like, "Have Republicans held the line against Juneteenth, Pride month, tech censorship, LGBT ideology, dubious vaccines, or anti-White discrimination? Not at all."
"Love you, Nick!" she writes to Fuentes in one post.
Even her Gab handle, <!——————————StartFragment——————————>Beauseant_Deux_Vult, appears to be a reference to "Deus Vult," a crusader war cry (Latin for "God wills it"), which has been repurposed as an anti-Islamic, White nationalist catchphrase. The "Beauseant" was the banner of the Knights Templar, a Christian Crusader group that has also been invoked by extremists, most notoriously Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik.
Who is she? She doesn't exactly try to hide it. On January 6, the one-year anniversary of Trump-supporting rioters laying siege to the Capitol, she posts a selfie captioned, "Happy Insurrection Day, ya filthy patriots!!" She posted the same one to her Facebook account.
She's "verified" on Gab, meaning Gab has ostensibly ensured she's not impersonating anyone else.
And she posts a lot about the high-profile job of her spouse.
"My husband is the Spo Co Prosecutor and he’s the last line of conservative armor that the County has," writes Lesley Haskell, wife of Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell. "Spokane has gone to shit."
In one sense, this story is a rerun — Lesley Haskell's social media history became a subject of condemnation back in 2015, when she wrote a number of posts observers described as bigoted, including one stating that she did not trust "Muzlims."
Back then, Prosecutor Larry Haskell sent the Inlander a statement that Lesley "is a strong, independent, and conservative woman" who "does not represent me in these forums, either personally or professionally" and that he supported "the right to freedom of speech of all people."
Some of the screenshots the site shared were taken out of context. In one such image, Haskell appeared to be joking that White culture was the "Ku Klux Klan." But a closer examination by the Inlander showed that Lesley Haskell appeared to be posting left-wing memes she felt were racist against White people, in order to argue that Facebook was being inconsistent about which racist memes they banned.
But the Inlander was able to confirm numerous other incendiary posts on Facebook and Gab.
Anti-vaccine conspiracy posts are common. She posts a picture of herself calling the COVID-19 pandemic the "Scamdemic." She shares a post claiming that "Globohomo" is after your kids. She declares she will never support a "mentally-ill" "transgender" for public office, no matter their politics. She reposts a Gab post that claims that after Black people are done helping "the regime" destroy "heritage America" they will have "only rap music, Nike shoes, abortions, and Marxist theory" left.
In an interview request, the Inlander asked Larry Haskell whether his wife had expressed similar sentiments to him, whether he agreed with the sentiments, and whether he pushed back and tried to convince her she was wrong. The Inlander specifically noted that the question wasn't about his wife's legal right to express her opinion, but how he responded. Haskell did not respond to any of the Inlander's specific questions, but sent over a statement.
"The Inlander recently made me aware of social media comments attributed to my wife, which the Inlander finds concerning. In a right shared by everyone, I fully recognize my wife's right to express her thoughts," Larry Haskell wrote. "In a previous discussion regarding my wife's social media postings, I stated such were hers, and hers alone. I acknowledged that she is a strong-willed person who will speak her mind. I do so again in this instance."
<!—————————StartFragment—————————>Lesley Haskell initially replied to a Facebook message requesting a comment from the Inlander, but then deleted her reply. Earlier this month, she declined an interview request about her attacks on Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle for hiring a left-wing legislative council aide, saying she would only do the interview if the Inlander agreed to endorse her husband.
"I have talked to both her and Larry concerning her Facebook posts," Knezovich says. "These posts are totally inappropriate."
<!——————————EndFragment——————————>Knezovich was one of the local GOP officials who was furious when then-Spokane GOP chair Cecily Wright hosted Nick Fuentes' former podcasting buddy, White supremacist James Allsup. Wright resigned from her role shortly after.
<!—————————StartFragment—————————>"The Spokane GOP does not agree with Lesley Haskell’s politics. The GOP does not support her," Knezovich says. "There is very little association between her and the GOP whatsoever."
Indeed, in many of Haskell's posts, she accuses the local GOP of backstabbing her.
Yet, that doesn't change the fact that the Republican Spokane County Prosecutor, arguably the most influential figure in our criminal justice system, is married to a self-described "White nationalist."
"It's still someone who has very close ties and potentially has very strong influence on that position and the decision-making process," says Kurtis Robinson, vice-president of the Spokane NAACP.
Robinson says that Larry Haskell should, at minimum, decry his wife's Facebook posts, stating "very, very clearly and definitely that is not his position, and he does not agree with it. I have not seen that from Larry Haskell."
In his statement, the prosecutor writes that his "wife's thoughts and beliefs, as expressed through this publication, do not represent or make her thoughts and beliefs my own." He also stressed that they did not have an impact on the decision making of his office, and reiterated that "we need to adhere to respectful discussions in government to advance the public good, without descending into stereotyping, name-calling, or identity politics."
In Knezovich's eyes, Lesley's extremist rhetoric is a far cry from Larry's evenhandedness.
"I do know that the prosecutor does not agree with his wife’s posting," Knezovich says. "They are two separate people. He is one of the most level-headed and very law-and-order conscious individuals."
Larry Haskell argues that only the Constitution and other aspects of the law influence his office, writing that he has not "had even a single case brought to my attention wherein the prosecutorial motive was shown to be other than conduct that is proscribed by law."
But when Robinson looks at Larry Haskell's opposition to the concept of "equity" and his efforts to shrink the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, he feels like there's an obvious connection between the husband's behavior and the wife's behavior.
"When you put all those pieces together," Robinson says, "plus Mr. Haskell’s position on multiple issues, the picture starts becoming pretty clear when we try to understand why he’s making some of the decisions he’s making."
As federal and local prosecutors across the country have had to figure out how to respond to racial justice protests and the actions of right-wing extremists, Lesley Haskell has made her views known on both.
"Here I am proudly posing with some Proud Boys," Lesley Haskell writes on a picture of herself proudly posing with some Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group.
One of the members in the photo is flashing an "OK" sign. It's a hand gesture that began as a hoax intended to troll the media by claiming it was a "White supremacist" hand gesture but was later actually adopted by far-right groups.
She dedicates numerous posts to attacking George Floyd, the Black man killed by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. She heartily agrees with a post calling Floyd a "scumbag drug addict" and declares that what happened to his convicted murderer, Chauvin, was "social justice by mob rule."
That's not to say that she's unsympathetic to anybody killed by police. Many of her posts express rage about the treatment of Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer while trying to climb through the window into the Speaker's Lobby during the January 6 riot.
Months after Jan. 6 rioters erected gallows and chanted "Hang Mike Pence," Haskell shared a meme.
<!——————————StartFragment——————————>"Government repair kit," it said. "Just add traitors."<!——————————EndFragment——————————>
After the conviction of the men who chased down and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man from Georgia, Haskell was anguished by the conviction of the neighbor who joined in the chase.
"You got what you wanted, an innocent White man is going to prison," she posted on Facebook the day Arbery's killers were sentenced to life in prison. "That’s a good reason to riot, huh? F&^%^* coward jurors."
When another Facebook commenter questioned why she was stressing that the man was White, Haskell responded, "'White man” because my comment is directed at those who desire nothing more than White men to be eradicated from the world, like a plague. BLM are those people. They are the true terrorists in America."
A former county prosecutor in Georgia was indicted because of the way he'd initially mishandled the Arbery case.
City Council President Breean Beggs, who was handily beat in his own race against Larry Haskell for the prosecutor in 2014, says Larry Haskell is in a challenging situation.
"At first glance, people judge each other by who they’re voluntarily associated with," Beggs says. "<!—————————StartFragment—————————>She’s put these out publicly. People who don’t know Larry Haskell personally are going to wonder what kind of prosecutor they have."<!—————————EndFragment—————————>
Beggs says he believes in not judging other people's relationships, but suggests that the prosecutor and his wife should make a public commitment one way or another.
"I think people can love each other and have very different views and very different religious views. I give them a lot of room to figure that out," Beggs says. "When it comes to them serving the public, the public is entitled to know exactly where a person stands."
Knezovich, for his part, says he's seen social media lead other people down dark roads, filled with hate. It's one reason why he says he doesn't use the site very much anymore.
"I believe Facebook is the most socially destructive element we have," Knezovich says. "Facebook, social media, Twitter, Snapchat."
By contrast, Lesley Haskell sometimes sounds gleeful about her ideology, referring to being "red-pilled," a term, lifted from The Matrix, that right-wing social media users often use to describe becoming radicalized.
<!—————————StartFragment—————————>"My red pill did not get stuck in my throat, it has permeated throughout my body. :)" Haskell writes on Facebook. "I am a monster."
But even self-described monsters can be disturbed by other monsters.
On some occasions, she laments the hateful world that she's surrounded herself with on Gab. The personal attacks on her weight. The broad attacks on women. She reacts to one particularly vile attack, by complaining there is "nothing but racist and anti-semitic sewage here on Gab."
"To believe and spout that another human being is less than because they are not White is a disgusting, evil way of thinking," Lesley Haskell writes.
And nothing in the context of that statement suggests she intended that to be anything less than sincere.
<!———————StartFragment———————>"In all respects, my wife's social media postings have no influence or bearing on how I run this office and I strongly believe that no one could establish otherwise," Larry Haskell writes. "In that regard, I seldom view, much less post, on social media platforms. Succinctly stated by the United States Supreme Court, 'guilt by association' is 'one of the most odious institutions in history.'”<!———————EndFragment———————>
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell's full response is as follows:
The Inlander recently made me aware of social media comments attributed to my wife, which the Inlander finds concerning. In a right shared by everyone, I fully recognize my wife's right to express her thoughts.
In a previous discussion regarding my wife's social media postings, I stated such were hers, and hers alone. I acknowledged that she is a strong-willed person who will speak her mind. I do so again in this instance.
What is important to note, as it appears to be the issue here is this: my wife's thoughts and beliefs, as expressed through this publication, do not represent or make her thoughts and beliefs my own. Further, my wife's thoughts and beliefs have no influence on the policies, procedures, and decision-making that govern my office.
I have not had even a single case brought to my attention wherein the prosecutorial motive was shown to be other than conduct that is proscribed by law. Only constitutional provisions, legislative statutes, court rules, rules of professional responsibility and court opinions direct my policies, procedures, and decision-making within the prosecutor's office.
I have also stated publicly, and in numerous forums, that as criminal justice practitioners, we need to adhere to respectful discussions in government to advance the public good, without descending into stereotyping, name-calling, or identity politics. I have not seen such rules applied to social media postings or the like.
In all respects, my wife's social media postings have no influence or bearing on how I run this office and I strongly believe that no one could establish otherwise. In that regard, I seldom view, much less post, on social media platforms. Succinctly stated by the United States Supreme Court, “guilt by association” is “one of the most odious institutions in history.” Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123 (1951).