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Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner pushes back on critics of his 'war criminals' joke

Chris Brennan, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA -- He never said "Nazis."

That is the essence of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's defense, presented to the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia, for sharing a joke his staffers tell, referring to some former city prosecutors who left or were fired when he took office as "war criminals."

As the joke goes, Krasner explained in Friday's "Philly Clout" column in The Inquirer, those prosecutors hired by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro are said to have fled to "Paraguay," a reference to one of the South American countries where Nazis took refuge after World War II.

"I agree that referencing the Nazis or the Holocaust should be done with sensitivity and thought," Krasner wrote Tuesday in a letter to Nancy Baron-Baer, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director in Philadelphia, responding to criticism in a letter she sent him Monday.

Krasner wrote, accurately, that he never said "Nazis" in his interview with The Inquirer, and continued his criticism of past "prosecutorial misconduct" that was central to his 2017 campaign and his policies since taking office. Krasner also wrote that such misconduct "is unconstitutional and atrocious, as are war crimes."

"Unfortunately, we are frequently undermined by the state Attorney General's Office, and sometimes by the very people implicated in this misconduct who left the Philadelphia DAO to join the office of the AG," Krasner wrote.


Baron-Baer, in her letter to Krasner, expressed "our disappointment in your recent use of a Holocaust analogy" to describe Shapiro's staff. Baron-Baer said she was reacting to complaints received by her office about Krasner's comments and a concern that they could "trivialize the Holocaust."

"These comments, particularly when made in jest, also demonstrate a lack of sensitivity to this unique tragedy in human history," she wrote.

Some prominent figures in Philadelphia's legal community have contacted The Inquirer since the column ran to offer support for Shapiro and his staff along with condemnation of Krasner's comments.

Shapiro, in an email sent to his staff Friday afternoon, wrote that he is "incredibly proud" of the staff of "committed, talented prosecutors" with "the highest level of integrity."


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