Fresh off the trail of covering Republican Kari Lake’s failed bid for the governor’s mansion in Arizona, an MSNBC reporter did not mince his words when discussing the election-denying candidate’s campaign.
Vaughn Hillyard, a correspondent for the news outlet who originally hails from Arizona, unloaded on the Trump-endorsed candidate while speaking with Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Tuesday, less than a day after the race was called for Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs.
Ms Hobbs was declared the winner almost a week after election day as she led by roughly 20,000 votes, with 50.4 per cent of the vote to Ms Lake’s 49.6 per cent.
Mr Hillyard spoke with the MSNBC hosts from outside of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, as he prepared to cover a separate political figure who seems beset on relitigating the results of the 2020 presidential election, former president Donald Trump.
The ex-president scheduled a “big announcement” from his Florida resort on Tuesday night where he is expected to make the much-anticipated declaration that he is running on the GOP ticket for president in 2024.
The irony of this pivot, from covering Arizona’s Ms Lake to the man who birthed the election denying conspiracies around 2020, was not lost on Mr Hillyard, as he acknowledged during his stand-up with the morning show.
“Look, I covered Kari Lake for a better part of a year and a half here, and I think it was fitting to be here at Mar-a-Lago, finally flew yesterday from Arizona and essentially felt like I was covering Donald Trump’s campaign of 2024, but in Arizona over the last year,” the reporter began before launching into a full-blown takedown of Ms Lake’s campaign.
“She predicated the campaign trying to sell the ‘big lie’ and the conspiracy theories,” he said, noting that when the GOP analysts start swooping in to conduct a post-mortem on what went wrong with Ms Lake’s bid for the governor’s office, they’ll soon put the pieces together.
“This is the third election cycle in which Arizonans rejected Trumpism,” pointed out Mr Hillyard. All of the individuals that rallied alongside the Covid-conspiracy courting candidate in her last week, he added, were figures who voters may be finally trying to signal that they’re not here for their brand of politics.
“She campaigned alongside Steve Bannon, she campaigned alongside one of the chief promoters of ‘Pizzagate,’” he said, before adding Sen Wendy Rogers to that list, a politician who just “earlier this year was here in Florida speaking at a white nationalist conference, somebody who frequently spews antisemitism.”
The reporter eviscerated Ms Lake’s association with other alt-right and election denying figures, such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, right-wing author and commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Rep Paul Gosar, a far-right congressman who stood on the US House floor last year and repeated his claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Ms Lake, who has yet to concede the race and who has previously dodged questions about whether she would accept the election results if she lost, has already begun trafficking in conspiratorial theories of election fraud. All this despite there having been no evidence put forward to support her misgivings.
On Monday night, she branded the results of the election “BS”, while Ms Hobbs wrote in a statement to her supporters that, “Democracy is worth the wait. Thank you, Arizona. I am so honoured and so proud to be your next governor.”
Mr Hillyard summarised Arizonans’ rejection of Ms Lake’s brand of MAGA politics as proof that Trumpism – and moreover, election denialism – was not a ballot-securing issue for voters, at least in the southwestern state.
“Ultimately, the question was, was she able to make that sell here?” he asked, before adding: “The answer is no. When you look at the slate of election deniers she was the latest one to fall making it a clean sweep of those candidates and secretary of state candidates, and now Donald Trump will try to run on the message that they lost on.”
Election deniers, who ran in races at every level of elected office during the November midterms, failed to win their elections in a majority of closely watched contests in swing states, according to an analysis by States United Democracy Center.
Based on results from 10 November at 1pm, the analysis found that in about 95 per cent of statewide races called, election denialism failed to gain new ground.
For instance, out of 94 races for statewide office in 2022, only five new election deniers had won as of Thursday afternoon. And of the nine other election deniers who have won, they were incumbents in states like Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. All 14 races where election deniers won were in states that voted to elect Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
In closely watched races for the Senate, election deniers Adam Laxalt and Blake Masters, Republican candidates in the Nevada and Arizona races respectively, both lost by slim margins to their Democratic opponents.
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