Arizona’s leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake, used to be an anchor at one of Phoenix’s top TV news stations. Endorsed last month by former President Donald Trump, she’s made her local media background central to her campaign message in a conservative swing state where GOP power has eroded.
“I’ve earned the trust of Arizonans across our state by bringing the real story into your living room night after night,” Lake said in her campaign announcement video.
Lake worked at Fox 10 for 22 years, anchoring nightly newscasts alongside longtime Phoenix anchor John Hook. She’s won Emmys and interviewed former Presidents Barack Obama and Trump.
However, in her final years working in journalism, she was criticized for sharing debunked and unverified information on Twitter. In March, she said she was leaving the profession.
“Journalism has changed a lot since I first stepped into a newsroom, and I’ll be honest, I don’t like the direction it’s going,” Lake said in a video announcing her resignation. “I found myself reading news copy that I didn’t believe was fully truthful or only told part of the story, and I began to feel that I was contributing to the fear and division in this country by continuing on in this profession.”
Three months later, Lake announced she was running for governor, and she’s the leading Republican in the race, according to an August poll from OH Predictive Insights. The race could be one to watch. Arizona was once a reliably Republican state, but Democrats have been on a winning streak since 2018, winning the state’s two Senate seats and narrowly delivering a win for President Joe Biden last year. The leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the race is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
Lake’s campaign provides a look into the current state of conservative media and politics. Trust in media has fallen significantly among Republicans and those who lean Republican, an August Pew poll found, but there’s a big difference between national and local news. The poll found 35% of Republicans trust information they get from national news organizations compared with 66% who said the same thing about local news organizations. It’s something Lake has played to her advantage as a former local anchor, positioning herself as a media insider who soured on the industry and calls on supporters to “turn the media off.”
Here’s how Lake went from mainstream media to the leading “Make America Great Again” candidate for Arizona governor in just a few years:
April 2018: Lake apologizes for claiming #RedForEd is a front for legalizing marijuana
Lake apologized during an evening newscast after tweeting that the #RedForEd movement to increase public school funding and teacher pay was actually a front to legalize marijuana.
Lake had tweeted a photo of a green shirt that read #GreenForEd and wrote, “What did I say?! #RedForEd is nothing more than a push to legalize pot. Check this out. T-Shirts are already printed!! This is a big push to legalize pot and to make it more savory by tossing teachers a bone with a substantial raise.”
She later said she “made an incorrect conclusion” in her tweet and that she respected teachers and worried some were using #RedForEd for their own separate agendas.
November 2018: Lake shares an unverified allegation of voter fraud
Two days before the midterm elections, Lake retweeted an unverified allegation of voter fraud. The tweet, which has since been deleted, was from a user who claimed to have received a ballot in the mail that was already filled out with votes for Democratic candidates.
Lake tweeted, “Now this is a new one! Ever get a ballot in the mail that was ALREADY filled out???” according to Phoenix New Times.
July 2019: Hot mic footage leaks after Lake promotes her Parler account
Lake was reportedly asked by higher ups to remove information in her Twitter bio about her account on the right-wing social network Parler, according to FTVLive, a TV news industry site. In leaked footage recorded before a Facebook Live broadcast, Lake and Hook, her co-anchor, were discussing the site.
“I think they just think it’s been branded as a far-right kind of place, so they don’t want you tied in to anything like that where you’re going to get blowback from the (Phoenix) New Times or anyone else,” Hook said.
Lake dropped an expletive, called the Phoenix New Times a “rag for selling marijuana,” and said, “I’m reaching people.”
February 2020: Lake interviews Trump
Ahead of Trump’s rally in Phoenix, Lake interviewed him about student loans, the changing politics of Arizona and the coronavirus. Trump praised China and said he was confident they were trying hard to contain the virus and that numbers would “get progressively better.”
“I think it’s going to work out fine,” Trump said.
During a speech at an event hosted by Turning Point USA, Lake called the interview “one of my favorite moments.”
April 2020: Lake shares COVID-19 misinformation
In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, Lake shared a video of two California doctors incorrectly claiming COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. In fact, the coronavirus is generally more contagious than the flu and it causes more serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
Lake wrote on Twitter that the video was one of the most honest briefings on COVID-19 she had seen, but the video was later removed by YouTube for violating its terms of service. It was also condemned by the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and American College of Emergency Physicians as “misinformation,” “reckless” and “inconsistent with current science and epidemiology.”
After the video was pulled from YouTube, Lake posted it again, with a link to an upload found on Facebook, according to The Arizona Republic.
March 2021: Lake resigns after being spotted at CPAC
FTVLive published footage of Lake at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on March 1, and questioned whether she was there to report or whether she was there in a personal capacity. The following day, Lake announced she was leaving Fox 10.
In a statement, Lake denied her resignation had anything to do with attending CPAC, an annual gathering of prominent conservatives from around the country, writing she was in Florida to tour colleges and go to a theme park and that “Fox did not want me to leave, nor did they ever ask me to leave.”
June 2021: Lake announces her campaign
Lake announced she was running for governor in a video on June 1. Lake said in the video that “the media keeps pushing fear and division” and that she’s covered politicians who do more for themselves and donors than Arizonans.
My fellow Arizonans, I have an announcement pic.twitter.com/7D5tE7rwEq— Kari Lake for AZ Governor (@KariLake) June 2, 2021
Lake later put out a video saying she’d take a sledgehammer to “leftist lies and propaganda” as she demolished televisions airing CNN.
.@KariLake, Trump-endorsed AZ governor candidate, released a debut campaign ad focused on her wanting to "take a sledgehammer" to the media. These must be the real problems Arizonans care about (jk, they're not). pic.twitter.com/55ykWe01Rw— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) October 4, 2021
Lake’s platform includes opposing vaccine and mask mandates, finishing the U.S.-Mexico border wall and withholding state funds from local governments that defund their police departments, according to her campaign website.
September 2021: Trump endorses Lake
Trump endorsed Lake in a statement calling her “a highly respected television anchor and journalist.” He added that, “few can take on the Fake News Media like Kari.”
Thank you, President Trump, for your endorsement.— Kari Lake for AZ Governor (@KariLake) September 28, 2021
This means so much to me because I know how much you love America and how much the people of this country love you!
I promise to fight as hard for the people of Arizona as you have fought for us. pic.twitter.com/KvhYInBH6N
October 2021: Lake says she wouldn’t have certified Arizona’s election results
In an interview with One America News Network, Lake said “considering how much, already at the time, information we had about serious irregularities and problems with the election, I would not have certified (the election results) then.”
Arizona’s election results were certified by outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, and county audits found no evidence of irregularities or systemic voter fraud.