Barabak: Fraud, liar Kari Lake faces welcome defamation suit

Ever since her clear and unequivocal loss in the race for Arizona governor, Kari Lake has traveled the country posing and strutting like a conquering hero.

As a candidate, the former Fox TV anchorwoman was all in on former President Trump and his Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen. Her brazen duplicity is probably what cost Lake the gubernatorial contest in November.

But in characteristic fashion, she’s refused to acknowledge defeat, filing a lawsuit — since thrown out of court — and widely peddling false claims about voter fraud and other conspiratorial flimflam.

Her actions are both amoral and unoriginal. Once Lake read from a TelePrompTer; now she parrots Trump.

Happily, she lost her election bid.

Now, she may face legal repercussions.

Last week, a top election official in Arizona, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, filed a defamation lawsuit against his fellow Republican, saying Lake’s blatant lies have cost him friends and lifelong relationships. Her malicious incitement has also resulted in death threats, he said, and harassment aimed at him and his wife.

“Rather than accept political defeat, rather than get a new job, [Lake] has sought to undermine confidence in our elections and has mobilized millions of her followers against me,” Richer wrote in the Arizona Republic. “Her defamatory allegations have unleashed violent vitriol and other dire consequences.”

Lake lost in 2022 by more than 17,000 votes. Not a lot, considering more than 2.5 million ballots were cast. But the margin wasn’t exactly whisker-thin.

Her farrago of falsehoods includes allegations that Richer manipulated the printing of election ballots and “inserted” 300,000 phony votes into the final count to prevent Republican candidates, including Lake, from winning. (In last year’s midterms, Arizona was ground zero for the frontal assault on democracy, with a slate of election-denying statewide candidates who all, fortunately, were defeated.)

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Lake’s phony claims were repeated numerous times, the lawsuit documents, at political rallies, during podcasts and on social media. Richer seeks unspecified monetary damages as well as a court order determining Lake’s statements were false and requiring her to delete them.

Naturally, she took to Twitter to respond.

“I’m exposing the massive corruption in our elections and this jackass is suing me. He wants to silence US. Trump won in a landslide & so did I,” Lake wrote, aping the former president’s hostage-note punctuation.

Imitation is not just a form of flattery. These days it’s the sum of Lake’s existence.

Of course, she included a link asking for money. The grifting never stops.

Lake is waging an obvious, bend-over-backward campaign to be Trump’s running mate should he win the 2024 Republican nomination. She’s a regular these days at Mar-a-Lago, and though Lake has yet to show up at mealtime in a sandwich board reading, “PICK ME!!!” it’s still relatively early in the campaign season.

Self-abasement is one thing, however, pathetic as it may be. Lake’s performance is not only sad; it’s dangerous, further eroding trust in our threatened democratic system with a fusillade of groundless attacks. As Richer put it in the Arizona Republic, she’s throwing “gasoline on the fire of falsehoods about our elections.”

Even more irresponsibly, Lake all but called for armed insurrection — as if one Jan. 6 wasn’t bad enough — following Trump’s indictment for his handling of classified documents.

“If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me” and millions of Americans “just like me,” Lake told a crowd of Trump worshipers in Georgia, adding: “And … most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA.”

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“That’s not a threat,” Lake said after issuing her threat. “That’s a public service announcement.”

The bar to win a defamation suit is deservedly high. It is not, however, insurmountable.

Witness the $787.5 million that Fox News coughed up to settle a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which was smeared with false allegations that the company’s equipment switched votes from Trump to Joe Biden, costing the former president reelection.

The discovery process was revealing, exposing the mendacity of personalities such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and the since-fired Tucker Carlson, who privately cast doubt on the stolen-election narrative even as they recklessly promoted it on air.

Who knows what might be revealed when or if Lake is questioned under oath.

It’s striking to note the swaggering bombast of Trump, Rudy Giuliani and other of the former president’s lying henchmen when they’re playing to an audience as opposed to the timidity on display when they testify under penalty of perjury.

Richer may not prevail in his defamation suit against Lake.

But if it deters other prominent personalities from hustling election-fraud fakery — when they know better — it will have served a fine purpose.

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