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While reporting on then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Lake, then a TV journalist, said Merrick Garland was “a very good justice, he’s the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit and Republicans and Democrats have spoken very, very highly of him.”
We found five tweets Lake posted sharing news headlines about Clinton’s emails; the headlines did not state support for Clinton and Lake did not add commentary.
A Phoenix drag queen said he and Lake were longtime friends and shared photos of the two together. He also criticized Lake as a hypocrite after Lake posted a tweet that he considered critical of drag queens.
A super PAC that says it supports "true conservative leaders" uses a drag queen to flag Republican Kari Lake, a front-runner for governor of Arizona, as a "phony."
With a 30-second ad three weeks before Arizona's primary election, American Focus PAC lobs a handful of attacks at Lake, a former news anchor for KSAZ-TV, Fox 10 in Phoenix who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The unidentified narrator of the ad, dressed in drag and applying makeup in front of a mirror, looks into the camera and says:
"A drag queen knows a fake when we see one. Like Kari Lake. She pretends to be an 'America first' Republican, but Barack Obama's speeches ‘enthrall’ her, and his liberal Supreme Court pick was a 'very good justice.’ She even defended Hillary Clinton's emails. Ugh, politics. But when Kari attacked drag queens, even though she counted us as friends, went into our bars, invited us into her home — now Miss Thing pretends it never happened. That Kari Lake, she's not just a fake. She's a phony."
American Focus PAC’s website contains only a brief description of the group, a donate button and the ad, with no contact information. The group also has no contact information on its YouTube channel. We emailed a contact listed with the Federal Election Commission, but didn’t get a reply.
We also emailed Lake’s campaign but didn’t get a response.
Let’s look at each charge in the ad.
The ad shows an image of an Oct. 27, 2015, tweet by Lake that included a photo of Obama.
Lake wrote: "Enthralled with #POTUS speech on law enforcement/crime/community relations. #BlueLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter."
Obama spoke that day to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He tried to balance minority concerns of overaggressive policing with an attempt to enlist law enforcement's help to push for stronger federal gun-control laws, according to the Chicago Tribune. NPR described the speech as sympathetic to the chiefs.
In a clip of what appears to be Lake reporting from outside the White House, Lake used those words to describe Obama’s March 2016 nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. She said that Obama’s message was that Garland was a "consensus" nominee.
"It’s somebody, who, really, you can’t have any qualms with," Lake said in a 26-second clip posted on YouTube. "He’s a very good justice, he’s the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit, and Republicans and Democrats have spoken very, very highly of him. He’s got an impeccable résumé."
Lake interviewed Obama about his choice in May 2016. Obama said both Republicans and Democrats had praised Garland’s experience and qualifications. In the interview, Lake did not express her opinion on Garland; she asked Obama questions.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., then the Senate majority leader, blocked a Senate vote on Garland’s confirmation. The seat was later filled by a judge nominated by President Donald Trump.
Clinton exclusively used a private email address while serving as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 during the Obama administration. Some classified information ended up on her private server, which was an unclassified system. Clinton’s handling of her emails became a major issue during her 2016 presidential campaign.
We found five tweets Lake posted sharing news headlines about Clinton’s emails; the headlines did not state support for Clinton, and Lake did not add commentary.
We didn’t find any other instance in which Lake referenced Clinton’s emails.
The ad shows this June 17, 2022, tweet from Lake:
"They kicked God out of schools and welcomed the drag queens. They took down our flag and replaced it with a rainbow. They seek to disarm Americans and militarize our enemies. Let’s bring back the basics: God, guns & glory."
Some Republicans around the country, including in Arizona, have called for laws to bar drag shows from being performed in front of minors. The calls in Arizona followed reports of a drag show in May at a Tucson high school, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
A longtime drag queen has said that he and Lake were longtime friends.
Richard Stevens, a well-known Phoenix drag queen who performs as Barbra Seville, responded to Lake’s June 17 tweet. In a June 18 Facebook post, he called Lake "a complete hypocrite," adding: "I've performed for Kari's birthday, I've performed in her home, with children present, and I've performed for her at some of the seediest bars in Phoenix. She's come to my parties …" The post included photos of Lake with drag queens.
The ad shows what appear to be images posted on Lake’s Instagram account. One of those Instagram posts, dated Dec. 1, 2014, appears to show Lake with Stevens, who is in drag. The caption said: "Half of what I learned about makeup I learned from watching friends like @barbraseville."
PolitiFact looked through Lake’s Instagram account and did not find those images. A Phoenix journalist and a watchdog group on Twitter shared screenshots of one of the images.
The Washington Post reported that a photo which appears to show Lake with Stevens in drag was removed from Lake’s account after the newspaper contacted her campaign on June 20.
On June 27, Fox News anchor Brett Baier asked Lake if she wanted to address the Washington Post news story about Lake attending Stevens’ shows for more than 20 years and hiring him once to perform at her home. Fox showed photos of Lake with Stevens in drag. Lake said the story was false and that she was "appalled that you would bring that up."
Lake’s campaign lawyer served Stevens a cease and desist letter demanding he stop making certain claims about Lake and that he delete his June 18 Facebook post, the Arizona Republic reported. Stevens’ lawyer replied with a letter saying Stevens would not comply with Lake’s cease and desist request. Stevens’ post was still on Facebook as of July 18.
Stevens wrote on Twitter that he learned the identity of the narrator in American Focus PAC’s ad, but didn’t reveal the person’s name.
Arizona’s primaries are Aug. 2.
Besides Lake, the other major Republican candidate is Karrin Taylor Robson, the founder of a land use strategy company. Taylor Robson is endorsed by Arizona’s current term-limited governor, Republican Doug Ducey.
The major Democratic candidates are Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.
Campaign watchers rate the Nov. 8 general election as a toss up.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article.
RELATED: Fact-checking ads in the 2022 elections
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YouTube, American Focus PAC "phony" ad, July 11, 2022
Newsweek, "Drag queen calls Trump-backed Kari Lake 'phony' over old stances in ad," July 12, 2022
Twitter, Kari Lake tweet, archived here, Oct. 27, 2015
Twitter, Kari Lake tweet, March 2, 2020
Twitter, Kari Lake tweets about Hillary and emails, July 12, 2022
Twitter, Kari Lake tweet, June 17, 2022
Twitter, @patriottakes tweet with Kari Lake Dec. 2, 2014 Instagram post, June 18, 2022
Twitter, @brahmresnik tweet with Kari Lake Dec. 1, 2014 Instagram post, June 18, 2022
Instagram, Kari Lake post (removed), Dec. 1, 2014
Fox News, "Federal judge orders Hillary Clinton deposition to address private emails: 'Still more to learn,’" March 2, 2020
The White House, "Remarks by the president at the 122nd annual IACP Conference," Oct. 27, 2015
YouTube, Fake Lake post, July 15, 2022
YouTube, Fox 10 Phoenix post, May 2, 2016
Washington Post, "Arizona GOP candidate who criticized drag was once a fan, drag queen says," June 20, 2022
Arizona Republic, "Kari Lake pushes back at drag queen with demand to 'cease and desist,’" June 28, 2022
KariLake.com, "WATCH what happens when a Mama Bear takes down a Fake News Baier," June 27, 2022
YouTube, post of Kari Lake Fox News interview, June 27, 2022
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact Sheet: Hillary Clinton’s email controversy," July 19, 2016