On Thursday, a prominent Republican election official in Arizona filed a defamation lawsuit against Kari Lake, who has made baseless claims that she lost the 2022 gubernatorial election due to fraudulent activity.
Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County Recorder, has been subjected to severe consequences such as death threats and loss of friendships due to the false information spread by Lake, which has resulted in violent and hateful behaviour towards him.
In an op-ed published in The Arizona Republic, Richer stated that instead of accepting political defeat or finding a new job, she has chosen to undermine confidence in our elections and has rallied millions of her supporters against him.
Lake is a former television news anchor in Phoenix who gained a devoted political following by being a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and his claim that the 2020 election was fraudulently taken from him. Last year, she narrowly lost her race for Arizona governor and also filed a lawsuit challenging the results.
She persists in alleging that Richer and other Maricopa County officials meddled in the election to thwart her victory, despite her defeats in court.
A comment request was made to Lake's spokesperson, but there has been no immediate response. She is currently contemplating a potential candidature for the U.S. Senate and is also a prominent candidate for the position of Trump's running mate in the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
The lawsuit has been filed in Maricopa County Superior Court against Lake, her campaign, and her political fundraising group as defendants. Richer is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order that declares Lake's statements false and mandates their removal from social media.
Defamation cases brought by public officials like Richer face a high bar set by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against Fox News Channel due to false claims made about its vote-counting equipment. However, this legal action resulted in the exposure of internal Fox messages that were damaging, and a settlement of $787.5 billion was reached.
According to Richer's lawyers, Lake is entitled to express criticism towards Richer. However, spreading false information that causes harm to Richer is not permissible.
The lawsuit specifically disputes two allegations: firstly, that Richer deliberately printed 19-inch ballot images on 20-inch paper, which resulted in issues during the counting process, and secondly, that he added 300,000 fraudulent ballots. The article outlines almost 30 instances where she publicly made these claims on social media, at rallies, and during news conferences.
According to the lawsuit, Richer has received death threats, one of which was prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, and has incurred significant expenses for home security measures. According to him, he and his wife have modified their daily schedules, and law enforcement has increased surveillance in the vicinity of their residence and workplaces.
In The Republic, Richer stated that she has exceeded the limits of protected free speech, which are ensured by the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution.