By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
COUPEVILLE — Greg Banks is sorry, and he’s going to change his social-media ways.
Earlier this month, conservative talk show host Jason Rantz contacted the Island County prosecutor and questioned him about his personal Facebook page, which Rantz claimed had a long list of “unhinged” posts criticizing President Donald Trump and his supporters.
Rantz maintained that a few Island County residents contacted him with concerns that Banks’ posts and attitude would affect his ability to do his job and fairly manage his employees.
Rantz’s commentary about Banks, a Democrat, appeared on MyNorthwest.com, the website for KIRO-FM, KTTH-AM and 710 ESPN. The column, “Local prosecutor’s unhinged posts call Trump supporters ‘racist bullies,’” was discussed during the popular “Tom and Curley” show on KIRO radio in Seattle on Thursday morning.
Yet Banks had already come to the realization that Rantz had a point. Banks pulled the voluminous posts from his Facebook page and sent out a mea culpa to his staff last week, saying that he had “done something pretty stupid.”
He was wrong, he said, to criticize the president’s supporters with “sharp-tongued” rhetoric that fails to acknowledge that many of them are “rational and thoughtful.”
“I engaged in the same behavior I criticize the president and his administration for,” he wrote. “I was criticizing a stereotype of the president’s supporters, and did not intend to direct it at any individual, let alone my friends, family or colleagues.”
Banks said his Facebook posts included a mixture of shared pages, memes, commentary and news stories. Sometimes he added comments on the posts he shared. In one, Banks commented on a news story about Trump using an accent to mock Asian allies, writing that the president’s supporters are “racist bullies with second-grade intellects and behavior disorders.”
In another, he likens Trump supporters to members of the KKK. In still another, he wrote wrote that Trump had to change his pants after meeting with the president of the NRA.
“With the frequency of posts, a seeming obsession, is it possible for Banks to treat Trump supporters fairly?” Rantz asked, claiming that the residents who contacted him feel Trump supporters won’t get fair treatment by the prosecutor.
Rantz points out that Banks has been involved in controversies in the past, but inaccurately attributes a quote about him to Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson. Commissioner Jill Johnson was the one who called Banks “a snake” during a public meeting that culminated a long and complicated history between the board and the prosecutor.
In an interview and in his apology letter, Banks maintained that his political views have had absolutely no bearing on prosecutorial decisions made in his office. He said such decisions are made based on defendants’ conduct and the law, not politics or prejudice.
As an elected official in a partisan office, Banks said he’s tried to keep political discussions to a minimum at work.
Banks also maintains he hasn’t treated staff members differently based on their Trump-related views, but he asked anyone with concerns to speak with him, the office administrator, one of the chief deputies or human resources. He said he will work to alleviate their issues.
Banks said the Facebook posts became emotional therapy to help him deal with the strong feelings he has for a “corrupt and racist” president. He said it’s unfathomable to him that thinking people can support such a man, but the answer wasn’t to lower his discourse to Trump’s level.
“That I was unable to see the harm my posts may cause to our reputation is more than embarrassing to me,” he told his staff.
Yet this realization doesn’t mean Banks will stop criticizing Trump. He said he will no longer insult Trump supporters and aspires to be more thoughtful and objective in his comments about the man himself.
This story first appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling publication of The Daily Herald.