Kari Lake’s ‘Actual Malice’

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

Kari Lake built her entire political brand on MAGA lies which she insisted were true. And yet, on Tuesday she and her lawyers decided they won’t mount a defense in a suit brought by an Arizona GOP election official who accused her of defaming him “falsely and with actual malice.”

As an Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2022, she co-opted former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as the basis of her campaign, and when early primary results showed her losing her race, she immediately alleged election fraud and corruption. And yet, she ended up winning the GOP primary, and suddenly the fraud disappeared.

Kari Lake Won’t Fight Arizona Election Official’s Defamation Suit

But Lake lost the general election that November, and her claims of corruption and a stolen election returned. She declared herself to be the “lawful governor” of Arizona until she announced her campaign for Senate last year.

She also used election-denier rhetoric to raise well over $3 million AFTER she lost the governor’s race. She still has election appeals pending in Arizona courts, and recently appealed her federal court case claiming Arizona’s voting and mail-in ballot program as unconstitutional. (The lower court dismissed the case early and Lake’s lawyers were sanctioned over $120,000.)

On Tuesday, Lake filed a motion in the defamation case brought against her by Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, asking the court for an expedited default order—effectively an act of surrender.

This violates MAGA's first tenet... never admit you are wrong. Now, her brand is destroyed.

I interviewed Lake a few weeks ago and asked her three times how the election was stolen and who did it. She finally admitted she did not know. This, combined with her surrender in court, is a profound public humiliation that will kill her election chances and drag down the Arizona Republican slate, including Trump, with her.

The Utter Ridiculousness of ‘Trump Bibles’

Among the claims Lake won’t defend in court are her accusations that Richer sabotaged the 2022 election—including the insertion of over 300,000 ballots and purposely misprinting the ballots.

Richer, by contrast, is a conservative Republican who takes his oath and duties seriously. Richer spent his first term investigating allegations of election fraud and corruption from his own party, and finding none, told the truth—there is no evidence of election fraud or corruption.

Refusing to play into the Big Lie resulted in Richer being the target of MAGA conspiracy theories, led by Lake, and now Richer faces a MAGA primary challenge steeped in more lies and conspiracy theories.

Just six months ago, Lake called Stephen Richer “evil” and said there is nothing anyone can do to “make me stop fighting this because the truth is on our side.”

These smears resulted in death threats against Mr. Richer, the need for around-the-clock security to protect him and his family, and an assault on his reputation from which he may never recover.

As a result of Richer’s suit, the presumptive Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona now faces a monetary judgment in the millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars. But the biggest punishment will be if her MAGA supporters abandon her for admitting defeat.

Kari Lake Is Choosing to Be a Loser

The court, in denying Lake’s previous motions to dismiss, noted her statements about Mr. Richer were “provably false,” but that did not slow Lake’s claims that the truth will set her free. (A representative for Lake insisted to The Daily Beast that the candidate “maintains she has always been truthful” but “will not play the lawfare game.”)

MAGA supporters, who seem much more interested in the “fight” than facts and evidence, will certainly be disgusted by Lake’s unwillingness to do legal battle over her own words and actions.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of the Kari Lake experience. Trump already rejected her as a potential VP, and rumors persist that he actively sought another Arizona Republican to run for Senate instead of Lake. Trump reportedly sees Lake as a drag on the ticket.

Her surrender and refusal to fight will not help that perception.

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