SPOKANE - A state lawmaker said she regrets leaving a profanity-laced voicemail for a Spokane reporter, but hopes the headlines will lead to renewed conversations about the horrors of human trafficking.
State Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, made news this week when she left an expletive-filled recording for Daniel Walters, a staff reporter for the Inlander.
“Daniel, you lying piece of sh*t," Graham said in a voicemail left after Walters published a report that detailed how she unwittingly shared bizarre conspiracy theories on her Facebook page.
"You've done it. You have started it,” Graham said in the message. “Don't you ever call me again! Do you understand? Don't you ever — and tell your buddies not to call me either. It's on. If you think for one minute that you're going to pull this crap and you're going to walk away from it, you're nuts."
Graham also used more profane words (Listen to full voicemail here) and criticized Walters on social media.
“The profanity itself doesn’t bother me,” Walters said in an interview with Q13 News. “But one of the things – and this wasn’t just on the voicemail, but on Facebook and public to all of her followers – repeatedly she called me a liar.”
While Graham has taken issue with the way Walters reported his story, he said she has not provided direct evidence of factual errors.
In the report, published August 27, Walters detailed how Representative Graham shared posts that, unbeknownst to her, linked to conspiracy theories about issues like vaccines and child sex trafficking.
“Graham says she was unaware of the weirder views on those sites, but didn't express regret about sharing those links,” Walters reported.
In an extended phone conversation this week, Graham told Q13 News that she does not believe in the more bizarre conspiracies the Inlander tied to posts she shared (reptile-human hybrids, children served up as sacrifices to Satan, Hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19) and that she shared posts in good faith to raise awareness for issues she’s passionate about.
One of the things not reported in the initial Inlander article, was that Graham’s sister, Debra Estes, was a victim of the Green River Killer. Graham has also said her sister was a victim of human trafficking, which is why she does not regret sharing posts intended to raise awareness for the issue.
While Walters previously reported on Graham’s tragic family history, he said he did not include it in his story because it was part of a broader exposé specific to politicians and the spread of misinformation.
The exclusion of that information, however, is what seemed to bother Graham the most. She felt that the background was critical in order for readers to understand that her intentions were good.
Still, she acknowledged that her handling of the situation was poor.
“He wronged me, Brandi,” Graham said. “But that doesn’t mean he deserved me calling him what I did.”
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox said in a phone interview that while he wishes “she would have expressed herself differently,” he understands that her personal passion, born from lived experiences with abuse and sex trafficking, likely contributed to her reaction.
Graham is currently running for reelection to the 6th Legislative District. Her opponent, Democrat Tom McGarry, said in an emailed statement that the ordeal shows Graham is “too extreme and too unstable” to serve voters in Olympia.
“A candidate with the inability to control her anger does not have the leadership qualities we need at this time in history,” he wrote.
Asked what he thinks voters should take from the ordeal, Walters said he hopes they read the stories and decide for themselves.
“Is a representative spreading misinformation? How does a representative act when misinformation is identified that she's spread or linked to? Does she attack the fact-checkers or attack the journalists? Or does she apologize and try to make things right? These are all important questions,” he said. “Along with her legislative history, her passion around issues like human trafficking. These are all things voters need to know about – and that’s one of the reasons we wrote about it.”