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December 11, 2021

DA Krasner's 'inarticulate' comments on homicide crisis draw national and statewide disdain

He walked them back on Thursday in the wake of the public relations crisis they caused

Crime District Attorney
12 11 2021 Krasner.png Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

District Attorney Larry Krasner had a tough week. After saying "we don't have a crisis of violence" in Philadelphia after the city broke its all-time homicide record this year, he walked back the "inarticulate" comments which had drawn disdain locally and nationally.

"We don't have a crisis of violence" in Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner said on Monday. By Thursday, he was walking back the "inarticulate" comment, but the damage was already done.

Politicians and commentators across the state and nation have jumped on Krasner over the past week, as his comments came as Philadelphia continued to blow past its all-time homicide record of 500 set in 1990.

Former Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, wrote an op-ed for the New York Post condemning Krasner's comments.

They were "some of the worst, most ignorant and most insulting comments I have ever heard spoken by an elected official," Nutter said in the article.

He accused Krasner of letting his "white wokeness" lead him to disregard murder victims and their families, many of whom are Black and Hispanic, as he pursues national attention for his status as a progressive district attorney.

Nutter was not the only one upset by Krasner's comments. They've been met with particular disdain in both local and national conservative social media circles.

The district attorney was dinged on Twitter by Bill McSwain, who was Philadelphia's top federal prosecutor under the Trump administration and is currently running to be Pennsylvania's governor.

"Krasner continues his war with reality," McSwain tweeted. "It is obvious to everyone that we’re in a violent crime crisis — caused by him."

Krasner's comments and the homicide in Philadelphia more broadly have drawn national political attention, in part because Pennsylvania is a swing state in the midst of an election cycle. In addition the gubernatorial race, there's also currently a battle to fill the seat of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R), who will retire in 2022.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted out Nutter's op-ed on Friday night. J.D. Vance, the author of "Hillbilly Elegy" who's running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio as a Republican, tweeted about Krasner as well. He noted that George Soros – a powerful liberal philanthropist, campaign donor and frequent target of conspiracy theorists – supported Krasner's campaign.

Krasner, who was elected to a second four-year term early last month with over 70% of the vote, was unhappy with the way his comments were portrayed in the media, saying the coverage lacked context about the nuanced point he was trying to make.

The district attorney's comments came at his weekly press conference on gun crimes and were in response to a reporter's question about whether tourists should feel safe visiting the city.

They should, Krasner said, noting that while homicide rates are up in Philly, rates for other types of crimes like robberies, rapes, aggravated assaults and commercial burglaries are down.

Many conservatives take issue with Krasner and district attorneys like him because they see them as not tough enough on crime.

Other big, liberal cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin voted in progressive district attorneys in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter protests and made changes – like Philadelphia's move to ban low-level traffic stops – to stem mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts people of color.

But many conservatives were distressed by what they saw as lawlessness in the nation's major cities when large protests went off the rails on several occasions and deteriorated into looting and rioting.

Some believe local district attorneys and law enforcement should have remained tough on crime in those instances and beyond, and they see the high murder rates in cities like Philadelphia as evidence that progressive law enforcement reforms are a boon to criminals.

This has fed the backlash against Krasner and other progressive district attorneys, like San Francisco's Chesa Boudin, who is officially facing a recall vote over his inability to stem an enormous wave of unsolved retail thefts and other crimes in his city.

Some, like Councilmember Jamie Gauthier from West Philly, believe there's a racial component to the fixation on crime in big cities and Philly in particular. The city is 42% Black and 15% Hispanic, and she believes much of the national attention the city gets for crime is a cloaked racist dog whistle.

Regardless, over the next four years, Krasner said he will have a "laser focus" on gun violence, which he described as "the most serious crime."