Kari Lake sure knows how to waffle.
In recent days, the Republican nominee for Arizona governor has gone back and forth on her endorsement (or lack thereof) of Jarrin Jackson, a white supremacist, antisemite, and homophobic troll who ran for state senate in Oklahoma.
Lake formally endorsed Jackson on August 17. “Jarrin is an America First patriot and does so much to advance our America First movement. Jarrin is a winner and a fighter we need in the State Senate," she proclaimed.
Lake got at least one thing wrong. Jackson is no winner. Ally Seifried, endorsed by Oklahoma's GOP governor, defeated Jackson in the Republican primary on Tuesday, marking his third consecutive loss.
Jackson, an arms dealer and ex-legionnaire, has said that homosexuality is "disgusting," called gay sex the "gateway to pedophilia," and said that “all Jews will go to hell” in videos on the right-wing social media platform Telegram.
On Saturday, Lake said she would rescind the endorsement if Jackson's comments were true.
Spoiler alert: They are.
But Lake has yet to publicly rescind her endorsement, which continues to fester on Jackson’s campaign website. Her campaign manager quietly told select media outlets that she had pulled support, but ignored multiple requests for comment from Phoenix New Times.
Lake's apparent and diminutive walking back gave new life to the festering controversy over the endorsement.
“Kari Lake's tepid renunciation is wholly insufficient,” said Paul Rockower, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix. “Lake cannot be bothered to speak, or even tweet, the slightest denunciation of Jackson, let alone his bigotry and antisemitism. For someone who wants to head our state government, Lake seems remarkably afraid to show any leadership.”
Jackson has touted Lake’s fancy for him on social media. Lake, a former news anchor familiar with controversy and nutty figures, took a surprising interest in the bearded firestarter several states away. Twitter called it “finding a Nazi in a haystack.”
Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona, and Republican State Senator Wendy Rogers joined Lake in endorsing Jackson. Both continue to stand by their endorsements.
'Clear Disdain for LGBTQ+ Arizonans'But why Jackson? He’s a no-name who ran for the same seat in 2016 and 2018 and lost in landslides.
“Arizona’s politics have gone national,” Phoenix-based GOP consultant Barrett Marson told New Times.
Thanks in large part to election controversies in the state over the last couple of years, many alt-right Republicans have become household names throughout the country. They are famous, or infamous, depending on your political affiliation.
“For many MAGA Republicans running for office around the country, it is a positive to be associated with the likes of Kari Lake, Mark Finchem, and Wendy Rogers,” Marson said. “About the only qualification, of course, is America First. The vetting stops there.”
In a roundabout way, Lake admitted that she didn’t vet Jackson before pledging her allegiance to him.
"I looked at Jarrin's resume as [a] Combat Veteran in Afghanistan,” Lake said in a prepared statement. “It is impossible to dig into everything someone has said in their life.”
But it only takes a quick Google search to discover Jackson’s abhorrent views of the world. He’s no casual bigot. The Arizona Republic columnist Phil Boas observed, Jackson is “one of the most vile people in political life.”
According to Jackson, using the phrase LGBTQ “is using language designed by Satan” and added, “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want a society of homosexuals.”
They don’t want you either, Jarrin.
“Kari Lake’s endorsement of a homophobe and hesitancy to condemn his hate show a clear disdain for LGBTQ+ Arizonans and are yet another example of her comfort with anti-LGBTQ+ activists and ideas,” Equality Arizona spokesperson Jeanne Woodbury told New Times.
“Kari Lake has conflated trans-inclusive policies with child abuse and consistently refuses to condemn eliminationist rhetoric from close supporters of her campaign," Woodbury continued. "Equality Arizona calls on Kari Lake and Arizona voters to strongly condemn and distance themselves from anti-LGBTQ+ hate.”
Lake tethering herself to homophobes is quite a dramatic shift from hiring drag queen Richard Stevens to perform at a family party, which Lake did in 2014.
Stevens, who performs as Barbra Seville and is among the most well-known queens in Phoenix, received a cease-and-desist letter from Lake while on stage at a family-friendly drag brunch in late June.
“Kari had to walk back her endorsement the same way she walked back her denial of knowing me, hiring me, or having kids at her drag queen party,” the Bette Midler look-alike told New Times.
Endorsing small-time politicians in other states isn’t new, but it has gained more traction in recent election cycles, according to Chuck Coughlin, a Republican consultant based in Phoenix. It seems to be more closely associated with Trump-endorsed candidates and their ability to recertify loyalty to that part of the GOP, he added.
“This is a particularly new phenomenon as it relates to endorsements of candidates by other candidates that have never been elected before,” Coughlin said.
Although celebrity endorsements have always been a thing, these types of endorsements seem to be of a similar ilk, he said. Trump’s endorsement equals celebrity status — again, a circling of the wagons.
“This is the first time that a former president has played in competitive GOP primaries,” Coughlin said. “That has never happened before. Former presidents were satisfied, having served their time, to sit on the sidelines and let the party decide who the next generation of winners was going to be.”