Kari Lake, the Arizona gubernatorial candidate recently endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has embraced fringe far-right figures in her campaign events, including publicly thanking a Nazi sympathizer for his support and appearing with figures linked to the QAnon conspiracy, a CNN KFile review of her appearances has found.
At a campaign event in late August, Lake posed for a photo and video with far-right personalities Ethan Schmidt-Crockett, the founder of the AntiMaskersClub, who harassed a store specializing in wigs for cancer patients this summer because it required customers to wear masks, and Greyson Arnold, a Nazi sympathizer who has a history of making White nationalist, racist, antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements, including once calling Adolf Hitler “a complicated historical figure which many people misunderstand.”
“Anti-maskers club here with Kari Lake,” said Schmidt-Crockett alongside Lake and Arnold in the video. “America First,” they each said.
After Arnold posted a photo of the trio on Twitter, Lake replied, “It was a pleasure to meet you, too.”
Lake became an early favorite in the GOP primary by embracing the once-fringe extremism now mainstream within the Republican Party, including promoting election lies, doubling down against mask and vaccine mandates, and calling for the imprisonment of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is also running for governor. GOP Gov. Doug Ducey cannot run again next year because of term limits.
The former longtime TV anchor at a Phoenix Fox affiliate station has also earned the endorsement of other far-right conspiracy theorists, including Rep. Paul Gosar, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
In the wake of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in Arizona last year, the state GOP has censured Republicans who have spoken out against Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, while support for the partisan audit of Maricopa County’s election has become a litmus test for candidates in GOP primaries for governor and Senate.
On Wednesday, Lake’s campaign held what it called an “election integrity” rally to commemorate the anniversary of the 2020 election, which she falsely promotes as the “Big Steal” in event flyers.
Lake posed for a photo last month with Ron Watkins, a MAGA conspiracy theorist who helped spread and amplify the violent far-right QAnon conspiracy across social media.
Watkins, who is running for Congress in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, wrote in the post, “Just had dinner with Kari Lake, the next Governor of Arizona. She inspires me with her tenacity and willingness to lead the fight to take back Arizona from do-nothing RINOs.”
After publication, an attorney for the Lake campaign reached out to CNN and pointed to a statement from Lake denying she had dinner with Watkins, as he had described on Telegram, and saying he was among many she had met at a campaign event.
“There were more than 75 Arizona voters there who showed up to hear me speak about our candidacy. I took photos with many of the people who asked for them. I take dozens of photos with Arizonans each day at campaign events across the state,” Lake said.
Timothy La Sota, an attorney for the campaign, added that Lake “does not do a background check on everyone she takes a photo with or everyone whose name she ever mentions.”
At a Back the Blue campaign event in early October, Lake’s campaign invited right-wing activist Mary Ann Mendoza, who lost her police officer son in a crash involving an undocumented immigrant, to speak.
Last year, Mendoza promoted a QAnon-laced conspiracy theory tweet thread that baselessly alleged Jews were plotting to take over the world, causing the Republican National Convention to abruptly drop her from its speaking lineup.
Lake also appeared at events with at least two Republicans who have run or are running for Congress and have engaged with the QAnon conspiracy theory, Josh Barnett and Daniel Wood.
Barnett, who is running in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, previously shared numerous QAnon hashtags on his social media platforms (including the innocuous-looking #savethechildren). Although he has since distanced himself from the conspiracy theory, he has become active in pushing for Arizona’s sham election audit.
Lake has praised Barnett on social media as “an American hero” and “patriot” who “deserves so much credit for making sure the debacle election of 2020 was investigated. The forensic audit would not have happened without you.”
There was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election and the sham audit confirmed that Biden had defeated Trump in Maricopa County.
While speaking at a Q&A in October, Lake praised Barnett, who sat in the audience, for assisting with that audit.
“We have some people like Josh, in here, who’s been helping get them rolling in Georgia, Pennsylvania. And this is a real patriot right here. Can Josh stand up? I’m sorry. I have to call you out,” she said. “Josh Barnett is one of the most amazing – I always say that our grandkids will be toasting him in, in a bar in 50 years as one of the people who helped save the republic.”
In May, before she officially launched her gubernatorial bid, Lake also spoke at the same Arizona MAGA conference as Barnett and Wood, a Republican who ran in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District last year. Wood previously said he has followed QAnon “at times” and that while he’s cautious about the movement, “it has millions of followers who really want our country to succeed.”
This story has been updated Monday with a statement from Lake and an attorney for her campaign.