Could former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake be found guilty of defamation?

Lake is being sued by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who said in a suit filed last week that Lake, her campaign and her political group Save Arizona Fund accused him of intentionally sabotaging the election which led to Richer and his family being “the target of threats of violence, and even death and have had their lives turned upside down,” according to the suit.

In a fundraising post on Truth Social, former President Donald Trump’s social network, Lake described the suit as “BS.”

To win the case, like any libel plaintiff, Richer will have to prove the information in question was published as a statement of fact rather than an expression of opinion and that it identified Richer, was false and ruined his reputation, said Joseph Russomanno, a professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Richer, a Republican elected in 2020, will also have to prove that Lake was at fault, which Russomanno said could get complex.

“Because Richer is a public official, he will need to achieve a higher standard than if he was a private figure,” Russomanno said in an email. “He will need to prove that Lake acted with ‘actual malice’ — that is, that she knew the information was false and stated it as fact nevertheless, or that she exhibited reckless disregard for the truth.”

He said showing that the defendant acted with actual malice was “where the plaintiff’s case is usually the most difficult. That is not easy to prove. Not impossible, just difficult.”

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Arizona election official sues Kari Lake for defamation

The suit against Lake comes after recent legal challenges to media companies accused of spreading false claims. Fox News reached a $787.5 million settlement in April with Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine company, after the company accused Fox News of false claims about their machines and the 2020 election. Last year, Alex Jones, a host at the right-wing site Infowars, was ordered by a judge to pay $965 million to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings and others over conspiracy theories he spread that the shooting was faked.

“It’s bad enough that anyone would spread information they know is false,” Russomanno said. “It’s especially bad when an alleged news organization that is supposedly dedicated to the truth does so. Likewise, it’s problematic when politicians who ask for voters’ trust spread lies.”

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Kari Lake’s final legal election challenge has been dismissed

Since losing her 2022 bid for governor, Lake has refused to concede and waged losing legal battles challenging the results and claiming the election was mishandled. A Maricopa County Superior Court said in May it found no evidence of Lake’s claim signatures on ballots were not adequately verified.

Her book “Unafraid: Just Getting Started” was released Tuesday through Winning Team Publishing, a conservative book publisher co-founded by Donald Trump Jr. People reported Lake is a frequent visitor to Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s Florida home and club, and she’s reportedly on his short list to be running mate if he wins the nomination, according to Axios.