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An ad from Aaron Lieberman, a Democrat running for Arizona governor, hits the two frontrunners, Republican Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs, for ties to neo-Nazis and racial discrimination, respectively.
Lake posed for a photo and video at one of her campaign rallies with one man, Greyson Arnold, who is identified in news reports as a Nazi sympathizer. We found nothing else that tied Lake to neo-Nazis.
Hobbs participated in the decision to fire an Arizona Senate employee who successfully sued the Arizona Senate for racial discrimination. Hobbs herself was not sued.
In the race for governor in Arizona, one candidate went icepick-sharp with an attack that cut competitors on both the right and left.
The TV ad from former state representative Aaron Lieberman, a Democrat, hit the two frontrunners, Republican Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs.
"Right now, Arizona’s politics are a dumpster fire," Lieberman said into the camera, as flames rose from a trash container behind him.
"Kari Lake has been appearing at rallies with neo-Nazis. And she’s beating Katie Hobbs, who two federal juries have found guilty of racial discrimination."
The ad ends with Lieberman appearing to spray the dumpster with a fire extinguisher.
There is only an element of truth in both parts of Lieberman’s attack.
We did not find evidence that Lake, a former anchor for Fox 10 News in Phoenix who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has been sharing a stage generally with neo-Nazis.
The ad cited a November CNN report that said Lake "embraced" three "fringe far-right figures in her campaign events," including Greyson Arnold. The report said Lake posed for a photo and video with Arnold at one of her rallies in August. CNN reported that after Arnold posted a photo on Twitter, Lake replied, "It was a pleasure to meet you, too."
The report called Arnold a Nazi sympathizer with a history of making white nationalist, racist, antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements.
A previous CNN report also said Arnold repeatedly shared memes saying the U.S. fought on the wrong side in World War II. Months later, the Arizona Mirror reported that Arnold used his social media pages to post memes lauding Nazis as the "pure race" and lamenting the American victory in World War II. Arnold told the Mirror his posts were taken out of context, and he denied being a white nationalist or supporting Nazi ideology.
When we asked a Lake campaign spokesperson in emails about the Lieberman ad, the spokesperson did not specifically answer questions about Arnold.
Arnold himself told PolitiFact: "CNN is fake news."
Hobbs, then the Democratic leader of the Arizona Senate, did have a role in the 2015 firing of Talonya Adams, an Arizona Senate policy adviser who won a racial discrimination lawsuit. But Hobbs was not personally charged in the matter.
Adams, who is Black and represented herself, sued the Senate, alleging that she was fired for raising concerns about racial and gender discrimination because she was paid less than white male peers.
Adams alleged in the lawsuit that after she emailed a staff supervisor to discuss her job status, Hobbs told Adams that her email was inappropriate, because Adams had already discussed her status with Hobbs, the supervisor and another official.
A jury agreed with Adams’ discrimination claims and awarded her $1 million after a trial in 2019. But the Senate was granted a second trial after its attorneys argued that Adams could not claim retaliation because she did not first inform Senate leaders that she believed discrimination was taking place.
Adams won the second trial, in November 2021, when a jury found she was the victim of retaliation. The jury awarded her $2.75 million, though a federal cap law is expected to reduce that to $300,000.
Hobbs testified at both trials that she participated in the discussion to terminate Adams, saying she had lost trust in Adams over her decision to take emergency leave to care for her son in Seattle, and because of other chain-of-command issues, according to news reports.
Hobbs reiterated that point in a November 2021 letter to her campaign supporters, writing: "I take responsibility for my role in the decision to terminate Ms. Adams, and I stand by what I’ve consistently said, that this decision on my part was not based on gender or race."
Hobbs issued another statement in December 2021, apologizing to Adams. Unlike in her November letter, Hobbs said discrimination occurred, telling the Arizona Republic: "I know that in proceeding in her termination, I participated in furthering systemic racism."
Hobbs issued the apology after Black community leaders and others criticized Hobbs' initial response to the second jury verdict, the Arizona Republic reported.
The major Republican candidates in the governor’s race include Lake; Karrin Taylor Robson, of an Arizona political dynasty; and former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon. The major Democratic candidates are Hobbs, Lieberman and former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.
Lieberman said that Lake "has been appearing at rallies with neo-Nazis" and "two federal juries have found" Hobbs "guilty of racial discrimination."
Lieberman is exaggerating the facts to cast his opponents in the worst light possible. Lake posed for a photo and video at one of her campaign rallies with one man who is identified in news reports as a Nazi sympathizer, but there’s no evidence that this was anything more than a random interaction at a campaign event.
Hobbs, now Arizona’s secretary of state, was the Democratic leader of the Arizona Senate when she participated in the 2015 decision to fire an Arizona Senate employee who later successfully sued the Arizona Senate for racial discrimination. Hobbs herself was not sued, which means no court made a finding specifically against her.
Lieberman’s claim has an element of truth but leaves out critical information that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
YouTube, Lieberman Arizona "Aaron Lieberman - Our Politics Are A Dumpster Fire" ad, April 28, 2022
Twitter, Aaron Lieberman for AZ Governor tweet, April 28, 2022
Email, Aaron Lieberman campaign spokesperson Christy Chavis, May 2, 2022
Email, Kari Lake campaign spokesperson Ross Trumble, May 5, 2022
Email, Greyson Arnold, May 10, 2022
GovInfo.gov, Talonya Adams v. Arizona Senate court order, Dec. 21, 2021
Associated Press, "Jury Issues $2.75 Million Verdict to Fire Senate Staffer," Nov. 11, 2021
Twitter, Kari Lake tweet, Aug. 28, 2021
U.S. District Court, Talonya Adams vs Arizona Senate jury verdict, July 12, 2019
Arizona Mirror, "GOP lawmakers will appear alongside white nationalists, Nazi apologists, at rally to support insurrectionists," Sept. 23, 2021
Arizona Mirror, "The ‘groyper army’ is looking to make white nationalism mainstream. It has key allies in Arizona politics," Feb. 22, 2022
Arizona Republic, "The Arizona governor's race is now about who's least racist. Really," Jan. 19, 2022
Arizona Republic, "'I'm truly sorry': Katie Hobbs issues new apology in Talonya Adams firing," Dec. 8, 2021
Arizona Republic, "Former Arizona Senate staffer wins $1M in discrimination lawsuit involving Democratic leaders," July 16, 2019
Arizona Republic, "After a week of silence, Katie Hobbs sends letter to supporters about verdict in discrimination case," Nov. 18, 2021
Arizona Republic, "Senate spent big to fight bias claims; State facing more than $765,000 in court fees and penalties," (via Nexis), March 5, 2022
Arizona Daily Star, "Ex-state Senate adviser wins sex, race discrimination case," July 16, 20189 (via Nexis)
Arizona Daily Star, "Jury awards $2.7M to Arizona Senate staffer who said she was discriminated against," Nov. 12, 2021; updated Dec. 9, 2021
Arizona Mirror, "Katie Hobbs isn’t ‘fit to serve’ as governor after discriminatory firing, staffer says," Nov. 15, 2021
KatieHobbs.org, statement, Dec. 8, 2021
PACER, Talonya Adams vs Arizona Senate (subscription), Second Amended Complaint
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