By Daniel Dale
In September, Mike Lindell, the pillow businessman and promoter of wildly inaccurate conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, said Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was the first and only candidate he had endorsed.
“And that says a lot,” Lindell said while introducing Lake for an appearance on his talk show. “It says a lot about Kari.”
It sure does.
Lake, a former longtime local news anchor at a Fox station in Phoenix, has become the early frontrunner in the 2022 Republican primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, early polls and anecdotal evidence suggest. In addition to her high profile and her polished public speaking, Lake has jumped ahead of the field by joining Lindell in pushing lies about what happened in the free and fair 2020 election she falsely describes as “stolen.”
Lake’s words have raised concerns among independent elections experts about the fairness of future elections in a key swing state. It is possible, though far from certain, that Arizona’s 2024 presidential election will be conducted with two aggressive 2020 deniers at the helm: Lake as governor and state representative Mark Finchem as Secretary of State.
Both of them have been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. And like Trump, Lake has not only disseminated false claims about the election but called for action based on those false claims.
Lake has baselessly advocated the imprisonment of state Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is now running for governor, over unspecified election crimes; there is simply no sign Hobbs broke the law. Lake has also pushed for the imprisonment of unspecified journalists she claims have told lies about the election and other subjects.
And Lake has said she would not have certified Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona if she had been governor. She also continues to demand the decertification of the Arizona result today, though that is a legal impossibility.
Lake’s Republican opponents are not exactly standing firm in the defense of the 2020 election. As of early September, none of her rivals were willing to respond to an Arizona Republic reporter who asked them who won the 2020 election in Arizona.
But Lake’s election rhetoric stands out for its frequency and its intensity.
Kim Fridkin, an Arizona State University professor of political science, said that Lake “pushing lies about the outcome of the election and advocating imprisonment for her likely opponent is dangerous.” She said such words could not only decrease public faith in the integrity of elections but could help inspire disgruntled citizens to violent action like the January 6 insurrection. “I am concerned on a number of dimensions,” Fridkin said.
Lake’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Here’s a look at some of the false claims she has made about the 2020 election, both in general and in Arizona.
False claims about the 2020 election in general
Falsely called the election corrupt: On Twitter in September, Lake endorsed a lie from Trump’s spokeswoman that Democrats rig American elections using mail-in ballots. (Complete nonsense; there is no sign any such scheme occurred in 2020.) And in an interview this month with a conservative commentator, Lake offered up a vague conspiracy theory about the motivation behind the (nonexistent) rigging of the 2020 election.
“They wanted the MAGA movement to go away, and that’s why they pushed the shoddy, shady, corrupt election on us. They wanted MAGA and everything President Trump stood for to go away,” she said.
Baselessly cast doubt on Biden taking leads in key states: In an interview with another conservative host in August, Lake scoffed at the fact that Biden took the lead in swing states where Trump led before many Americans went to sleep on Election Night. Lake said sarcastically: “It’s magic!”
In fact, it’s so explicable that it’s boring. All that happened was that states continued to count votes. As had been widely predicted before Election Day, Biden tended to gain ground in states that counted mail-in ballots last — Trump discouraged his voters from voting by mail — and in states that needed time to count some votes from populous cities, which lean Democratic.
Trump actually gained on Biden in Arizona after Election Night, though he ended up losing there.
Promoted Dominion conspiracy theories: While Lake was still employed as a local news anchor last November, she posted a Twitter thread amplifying false conspiracy theories that attorney Sidney Powell had uttered on Fox Business about the election technology company Dominion Voting Systems.
Lake called Powell’s words “sobering.” But Powell’s claims about Dominion technology altering large numbers of votes in the US, Venezuela and other countries — which prompted Dominion to file a defamation lawsuit against her — never had any basis at all.
False claims about Arizona in particular
Falsely claimed Trump is the real Arizona winner: In August, Lake predicted we would learn that “President Trump was the real winner of Arizona” — where he actually lost by more than 10,000 votes — and that “the results that were given on Election Night and the weeks following were not only inaccurate, they were wildly inaccurate.”
Lake pinned her hopes on a shambolic Republican-commissioned election review in Biden-favoring Maricopa County … which ended up releasing a vote count nearly identical to the county’s own count. So then, in an interview with a conservative commentator in September, Lake baselessly claimed that Biden only got more votes than Trump because many of the ballots were “fraudulent.”
“It’s like having a kid who cheats at Monopoly game when the whole family comes together at Thanksgiving, and everyone sees him cheating, and you — ‘Ohh-kay, you won.’ But everyone knows he didn’t win, because he cheated,” Lake said.
In reality: Biden legitimately won Arizona and the election; Biden didn’t cheat; the partisan review did not demonstrate fraud.
Cast baseless aspersions on Arizona election practices: Whether out of dishonesty or ignorance, Lake has repeatedly suggested that Maricopa County has committed election wrongdoing it hasn’t.
Most notably, Lake has blasted Maricopa County for supposedly deleting elections files, even claiming the county’s conduct was “criminal,” without mentioning that the files in question were actually backed up.
“We still have all files from the 2020 election,” Stephen Richer, the elected Republican recorder for Maricopa County, told CNN on Friday. “They were archived from the main election server onto backup drives in early 2021 to begin preparing for the various jurisdictional elections we have conducted throughout this year.”
In a tweet this month, Lake suggested something was amiss about the fact that Maricopa County informed her she was being sent a mail-in ballot for a local 2021 election even though she had requested prior to the 2020 election to be taken off the list of mail voters.
Baseless claim about the California recall
Lake has even adopted a conspiratorial stance about the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election that Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom won in a landslide.
“We just saw what happened in California. You can’t tell me that Newsom won by a greater margin, now, than he did when he was first elected. That’s an impossibility considering what’s happened in California,” Lake said in a September interview with One America News.
In fact, it’s entirely possible. And it’s worth noting that, as more California ballots have been counted in late September and early October, Newsom’s margin of victory on the yes-or-no recall question has shrunken a little from its initial size — to become nearly identical to his 61.9% to 38.1% margin of victory over a Republican opponent in the 2018 election.
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