Kari Lake Is the Camera Ready, Big-Lie Loving Future of the MAGA Movement
Kari Lake was an on-air news anchor. Now she wants to see the “corrupt media” locked up, mask mandates nixed, and herself as governor.
Until this summer, Kari Lake co-anchored Fox News at 5 and 10 p.m. as part of a long-running team in Arizona. Her bosses didn’t like her openly flirting with the far-right platform Parler, and she was caught on a hot mike saying “fuck them,” referring to a local newspaper covering the story. “They’re 20-year-old dopes. That’s a rag for selling marijuana ads.”
Dropping the F-bomb didn’t sit well with her bosses, who banished her for a time. Soon after they put her back on the air, she announced triumphantly that she was running for governor.
Trump loves her. She is 52, sounds credible and is media-savvy. With his endorsement, she is the early frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Exhibit A in the Trump team’s plan to install friendly governors in states to potentially overturn votes in his favor in 2024.
Unlike Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, who successfully ran as a watered-down version of Trump, careful to keep his distance from the genuine article, Lake is all the way in.
She’s called for the jailing of Democrat Katie Hobbs—Arizona’s secretary of state and likely Democratic candidate for governor—for the crime of certifying the 2020 election results. She’s called for the jailing of journalists in “the corrupt media.” She’s told college students to defy mask mandates, and recently led a rally at Arizona State University where she showed her disdain for masks by tossing one to the ground and stomping on it.
“Remember, slow the spread? We’re on Day 515 of these bastards trying to destroy our lives,” she told the students. “If they arrest you, on Day One when I’m governor, I will pardon every patriot who stood up against this tyranny.”
Chad Campbell, an Arizona-based political consultant and former elected official in the state, told The Daily Beast that Lake “came out of the gate full speed ahead and captured the Trump persona, the message and the approach. She’s got it all dialed in.”
There are others vying for the GOP nomination against Lake, who’s also appeared with multiple supporters and amplifiers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and publicly thanked a Nazi sympathizer.
Former congressman Matt Salmon, who retired from the House in 2017, is a traditional Republican trying to reinvent himself for the Trump era, says Campbell.
“It’s kind of sad and pathetic. He’s not going to out-Trump Kari Lake. She’s been on camera for a long time. She knows how to engage the media and use the media. But let’s be honest, she has no idea how to govern. She’s never run a business that I know of. She’s a personality, like Trump. And you see the Republican base really gravitate towards the cult of personality as opposed to people who have a vision for governing.”
Two other women are in the race. State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, an Asian American, is running as “the conservative fighter we need who has a proven record of protecting and standing up for ALL ARIZONANS.” The emphasis is Yee’s, and it distinguishes her in a way that won’t please Trump. Karrin Taylor-Robson, a businesswoman, is running as a “lifelong conservative Republican” as if the last five years didn’t happen.
“If someone told me I had to bet on the Republican primary, I would bet everything on Kari Lake,” says Campbell.
Katie Hobbs got so much publicity defending Arizona’s electoral system and standing up to baseless allegations of fraud during multiple recounts that she is expected to easily win the Democratic nomination. Then it’s on to a one-on-one in a state that is exquisitely divided politically.
There, Hobbs would likely face Lake, a walking compendium of Trump’s greatest hits who the ex-president has enthusiastically endorsed. Trump singled out her experience in the news business as a credential that makes her specially equipped to take on the news media that he has called “the enemy of the people,” a fascistic term. He said in a statement about Lake: “She is a fantastic person who spent many years working as a highly respected television anchor and journalist. Because of this, few can take on the Fake News Media like Kari.”
Lake is running on “election integrity,” code for Trump’s Big Lie, and says she would not have certified the 2020 election in Arizona despite multiple audits, including one by an outside group recruited by Republicans. Instead of uncovering widespread fraud, the Florida-based group, named Cyber Ninjas, found more votes for Biden than in the earlier count and recounts.
Lake has got all the slogans down pat. She’s opposed to COVID-19 lockdowns, cancel culture, and what she calls the entire “woke” curriculum that Democrats have foisted onto the schools. On her website, Lake says it “means the world to have (Trump’s) endorsement to be Arizona’s next governor. My commitment to the great people of this state is to always put Arizona First, just as he put America First.”
“She has Trump’s endorsement, which is the most important thing you can get in a Republican primary, and she comes with built-in name ID,” says Jessica Taylor with the non-partisan Cook political report. “Even before Trump endorsed, I was told she’s the one to watch.”
In addition to Trump, Lake’s supporters include Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser turned unhinged conspiracy theorist who was pardoned by the former president; MyPillow guy and Big Lie true believer Mike Lindell; and Rep. Paul Gosar, who just posted an anime video showing himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
An Iowa native, Lake worked in several markets, including at a station in Albany, New York, an area she found “so parochial” that she returned with her videographer husband in 1999 to Phoenix, where she had previously worked for an NBC affiliate. She spent most of the last two decades there establishing herself as a credible news source. Now she’s testing whether that credibility can carry her to elected office on a platform of outright lies and incendiary rhetoric.