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Five Highlights of Kari Lake's Dark Path to Right-Wing Radicalization

Kari Lake announced she was leaving her anchor job in a video posted on Rumble, a video site used by the right, last week.EXPAND
Kari Lake announced she was leaving her anchor job in a video posted on Rumble, a video site used by the right, last week.
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Kari Lake completed her transition from nightly news fixture to conspiracy peddler last week, posting a video screed in which she announced her resignation as Fox10 News anchor, railed against the media, and claimed that hit pieces about her would soon emerge.

Coincidently, Lake's resignation came shortly after video of her schmoozing at CPAC, a conference for conservative activists, surfaced. Lake vehemently denied any connection between the two to Phoenix New Times — more on that later — but the move was reminiscent of her response to inquiries about her promotion of a far-right website and a weeks-long absence from the air by blasting out a statement saying she was taking family and medical leave, and that any questions were meant to damage her reputation and hurt her personally.

Her resignation marks the inevitable end of a saga in which Lake burned through the credibility she had established over two decades as a news anchor by increasingly embracing the right-wing misinformation sphere inhabited by former-President Donald Trump's fervent supporters.

Just as Lake has migrated from Twitter and Facebook to Parler and other far-right social media knock-offs, the next logical step for her and her similarly enraptured fanbase would seem to be a spot on one of the more extreme Fox News spin-offs. Lake says she's looking for something closer to home, but only time will tell.

Since no "hit pieces" have yet emerged as Lake predicted — the Arizona Daily Independent got former governor Jan Brewer to give a glowing quote about Lake — we decided someone needed to fill the Gab gap.

Here are five memorable features of Kari Lake's descent into the murky depths:

Thinly Supported Conspiracies

If there's one thing Lake loves to amplify, it's a poorly vetted conspiracy theory. There was the time in 2018 she tweeted that teachers' efforts for better pay were secretly a ploy to legalize marijuana — based solely on a joke T-shirt. In recent months, she's retweeted news about power outages at the Vatican and in Pakistan, which conspiracy theorists have claimed were signs that the Pope was being arrested for child sex trafficking.

She's also helped push unverified claims about voter fraud, further spreading a myth that Trump supporters have used to try and overturn the presidential election. In 2018, she boosted a random Twitter user's unverified claim that the person had received a pre-filled-out ballot. In November, Lake posted a Twitter thread quoting what she called a "sobering interview" by election-conspiracy-theory-pusher Sidney Powell, who is now facing a huge defamation suit related to her claims that the election had been stolen in a scheme connected to Venezuela, Cuba, and China.

And in April of last year, Lake shared a COVID-19 misinformation video that had been denounced by leading medical organizations as "reckless" and not based in science. When YouTube removed the video, Lake re-shared a link to it on Facebook.

Far-Right Social Media

So where's Lake getting this stuff? We've all heard stories about older family members who've fallen down the wormhole of right-wing misinformation online, only to emerge as a QAnon supporter or a COVID-denier. Lake seems to be living that spiral.

The former news anchor was an early adopter of Parler, a want-to-be Twitter favored by Trump supporters and right-wing extremists. The service lost its hosting following the attack on the U.S. Capitol after it couldn't reign in threats of violence on its platform, but Lake was undeterred. Along with many hardcore Trump supporters, she opened an account on Gab, an even more marginal site beloved by QAnon converts and neo-Nazis. Lake even appears to have paid $100 to the site for a yearly membership.

"Hope Gab is more civil than Twitter," she wrote in her first post on January 9.

There, Lake seems to have adopted an even looser standard for fact-checking, sharing articles from propaganda outlets like the Epoch Times.

With this history, it was unsurprising that her resignation from Fox10 came in the form of a video hosted on Rumble, a video platform used by Trump supporters.

'Cancel Culture'

Lake's moves seem to reflect a larger trend among the far-right and fervent Trump supporters to label basic fact-checking and accountability as vicious "cancel culture." This is obviously a problematic stance for a journalist who is supposed to advance those values as a core part of their job.

In an interview with conservative radio host Larry Elder last week, Lake recalled the first time she was "canceled."

"It was so painful, Larry. Without sounding melodramatic, it really brought me to my knees," she said. "I was in tears. I was praying to God the pain would end."

Lake didn't answer Elder's question about what she was "canceled" over, but a fair guess might be that 2018 incident where she spread false information based on a T-shirt.

When I reached out to Lake in January about her presence on Gab and absence from the air, she responded by blasting out a statement claiming questions about why she had apparently given $100 to support a website that offers a space for neo-Nazi recruitment were "only intended to damage my reputation or personally hurt me."

This week, Lake told me that the January article was "ludicrous" and claimed that I had ignored facts.

She echoed a similar theme in her resignation video, alleging in Trumpian fashion that attacks on her would come from those not dedicated to the truth, while anything that came from her lips would be truthful.

Lake further alleged that she had been given news copy to read that she didn't believe was fully truthful. She didn't elaborate on what that was, but in an interview with the Arizona Daily Independent she specifically cited coverage of COVID-19. Given her history, she might have had a problem with basic fact-checking and avoiding misinformation.

Industry Gossip

While Lake's hijinks have drawn plenty of local attention, no outlet has more doggedly covered her than FTVLive, an industry gossip site. The blog was first to obtain a recording of Lake dissing New Times on a hot mic and has closely followed her evolving situation with the station.

Last week, that TMZ of TV news shared video of Lake apparently mingling with the crowd at CPAC, a convention for conservative activists that was held in Florida this year. In a follow-up article, the blog cited anonymous sources at the station saying management was blindsided by the video and were trying to reach her. One attributed Lake's departure to the video.

Lake told New Times this was not the case. In a lengthy Twitter message, she said that she was in the area already touring colleges with her daughter:

...I can see you are bound and determined to try to report I've been fired or suspended or in trouble. I have never been suspended, demoted or otherwise for any Tweet, social media post, etc. As a matter of fact, I've never been suspended, demoted or fired from any job in my life. And as much as you would love to report that I was forced out, that is not true. Leaving Fox 10 was 100% my choice. Fox did not want me to leave, nor did they ever ask me to leave. Also, I was in FL to tour colleges with my daughter and go to a theme park in Orlando. I was able to visit with a few friends on Saturday at CPAC since it was down the street from our hotel. My attendance there had nothing to do with my choice to resign. It played no role in my resignation which was in the works well before my trip to Florida. I know facts don't really matter in your reporting on me. You are the one who has to live with your choices. So write what you will, I have given you the truth.


Weed

If there's one moment that defined Lake's adversarial relationship with New Times over the years, it's when she was caught on a hot mic disparaging the age of our journalists and our advertising base.

"Fuck them. They're 20-year-old dopes," Lake said in 2019. "That's a rag for selling marijuana ads."

While she's not totally wrong, Lake's comments, which came the year after her attempts to tie striking teachers to marijuana, went viral.

New Times fired back, pointing out that Lake's favorite musicians likely enjoyed the devil's lettuce on occasion and inviting local comedians to join in on dredging Lake's comments for content.

"I can't be the only one that sees the humor in her complaining about marijuana ads when all she does are puff pieces," wrote one.

We would recommend that Lake try some of what the newly legalized industry has to offer, but perhaps she should take it easy. We hear it can induce paranoia.

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