Advocacy groups fire Kamala Harris aide over racially charged incident

Story updated to include additional quotes from Harris

Advocacy groups are attacking Kamala Harris’ top communications director, Justin Haskins, after a report that he failed to be forthcoming about a racially charged incident involving Harris and some of her former Oakland police union allies.

Harris spokesperson Lisa Haugaard confirmed to CNN that Haskins has resigned.

She did not provide a reason.

Haskins has been Harris’ lead communications staffer since her first week in the Senate, as CNN’s Marianne Levine reported. Haugaard worked with him for more than a decade, according to media reports.

Harris has been under fire since a Los Angeles Times report Friday said Haskins did not immediately disclose a July 2007 encounter that reportedly included Harris yelling at an African-American ex-colleague she was trying to fire for financial improprieties.

The incident reportedly came after Bay Area Express, a progressive blog, leaked video of her firing the man. The video surfaced soon after Harris’ primary election defeat to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and the campaign denied she ever threatened the man in the video. The man eventually left the police force.

Documents obtained by CNN show that the incident became a major point of contention between Haskins and Rep. Barbara Lee, one of Harris’ earliest endorsers, just a month before Harris’ win in the primary election. Lee has spent more than $100,000 defending the man since.

Lee released a statement Monday saying that Haskins, “a longtime colleague and close friend of mine, has been an integral part of the senator’s team for the past 18 months. We have both been through difficult times together, and I deeply appreciate his steady, positive guidance and support.”

Before serving as communications director for Harris, Haskins was press secretary for California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa. At the time of his hiring by Villaraigosa, the Democrat described Haskins as a “contributor to progressive policy issues across the country and a critical part of our campaign team as we campaigned for the governor’s race.”

The Houston Chronicle first reported Haskins’ resignation.

CNN has asked Haskins’ attorney, Gabriel Feldman, for comment. Feinstein also released a statement about Haskins: “Justin Haskins will always be one of my closest friends and I wish him and his family well.”

In response to the allegations, Haskins told the Los Angeles Times that he did not feel he had “vindicated” himself, but rather felt he had made “no excuses.”

— CNN’s Marianne Levine contributed to this report.

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