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Opinion Black voters just love Kari Lake, says Kari Lake

Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor in Arizona, speaks during an Oct. 9 rally in Mesa, Ariz. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
5 min

PHOENIX — The event, at a barbecue joint along the interstate here, was billed as “Black Voices for Kari,” where far-right gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake could demonstrate her support among Black voters.

When “Black people start asking questions, we want answers,” declared the emcee, former NFL player Jack Brewer (in from Florida for the event), who at the White House in 2020 praised Donald Trump as “the first Black president.”

But there were a few problems with the “Black Voices” concept: The majority of attendees were White — as were many of the people putting questions in the big goldfish bowl for Lake to answer and even some of those holding “Black Voices for Kari” posters distributed by the campaign. To overcome this awkwardness, campaign aides recruited actual Black people in the audience to stand behind Lake at a subsequent news conference — in which Lake declared her Democratic opponent racist.

Such is the state of Republicans’ “Black outreach.”

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Lake’s effort suggested she doesn’t expect to win much support among Black voters, 9 in 10 of whom vote Democratic nationwide. She hailed Trump as a model for engaging African Americans, and she approvingly cited Kanye West, who recently wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. She invoked the disputed claim that “more than half the Black babies are aborted in New York City,” discussed the “decimation” of Black families and did her customary demonization of “critical race theory.” A warm-up speaker condemned Black Lives Matter rioters for endangering “blue lives.”

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But the event was more likely aimed at reassuring some moderate White voters that Lake, and the GOP generally, haven’t gone full white nationalist. Republicans have fueled that perception with crime ads featuring Black faces in mug shots and claims that Black people commit most crime. Lake herself has flirted with “great replacement” conspiracy thoughts (she again referred to a migrant “invasion” at the event) and thinkers.

Whatever its purpose, the majority-White “Black Voices” event was a magnificent display of phoniness. At this, the former newscaster excels. Lake is an ideal candidate for the post-truth age: She doesn’t shade the truth; she reimagines reality in bold Technicolor.

She announced that her opponent, Katie Hobbs, is a “twice-convicted racist.” This is Lake’s reinvention of a workplace discrimination lawsuit, filed by a Democratic staffer when Hobbs was Democratic leader of the Arizona Senate, in which Hobbs was not a defendant.

Lake claimed “Arizona paid nearly $3 million in settlement money to this victim because of Katie Hobbs’s racism.” Actual damages paid: $300,000.

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Lake announced that when Hobbs was in high school, “she held something called Slave Day” and “she held a mock slave auction.” There is no evidence Hobbs did any such things. This is Lake’s distortion of a Daily Mail report that Hobbs’s Catholic school had a decades-long tradition in which seniors hazed freshmen as “slaves.”

Listening to Lake’s imaginative barrage, it’s difficult to absorb the shock of one claim before another comes. Democrats are alternately “globalists,” adherents of “straight-up communism” or “evil.” Our culture has “done our men wrong” by “basically telling our boys being a man is a bad thing” when “there’s no such thing as toxic masculinity” and “fathers are the most important parent.”

Lake claimed that Hobbs favors infanticide: “If you’re in labor and you’re ready to deliver, she’s okay with having abortion for that baby.” (Hobbs, of course, has said no such thing.)

Lake, unapologetically an election denier (“we have our freedom of speech, and we’re not going to relinquish it to a bunch of fake news propagandists”), claimed that “2000 Mules,” which made debunked claims of voter fraud, “was a credible movie.”

She floated a new voting conspiracy, saying it’s “curious” that Arizona shut down polling in schools and churches during the pandemic in favor of “massive vote centers” where “it’s harder to know what’s going on.”

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And she wouldn’t commit to honoring the 2022 election results unless she judges the outcome “honest, fair and transparent” — but she claimed Democrats are the real election deniers.

She also renewed attacks on the coronavirus vaccines (an “experimental shot we’re already seeing lots of problems with”) and face masks (“a bunch of baloney”). “I think I heard that the strip joints,” she said, “were kept open” during pandemic shutdowns. In fact, Arizona strip clubs, like restaurants and bars, were shut down and then restricted.

All this was mild compared with Lake’s warm-up acts. After opening music ranging from hip-hop to “Sweet Caroline,” an invocation by Jerone Davison asked God to “bind up the hands of the wicked ones, the wicked party” — Democrats — and “cast it back to the pits of hell.”

Brewer told the crowd that abortion is a “blood sacrifice that these demonic people on the left” do.

City council candidate Denise Ceballos-Viner said to applause that “men still have the role of the head of the household because that’s what the Bible tells us”; she told the crowd her husband says “it tastes better when I serve him” his meals.

The several Black attendees I spoke with, all self-identified conservatives, dismissed concern about Republican racism, saying the problem afflicts both sides. One young man who sat in the front row, Isaac Glover, argued that statements blaming Black people for most crime are “factually correct.”

Actually, that isn’t correct. But the confusion is understandable. In Lake’s upside-down world, the truth is nearly impossible to discern.