As tweet storms go, it wasn’t much.

Just a wisp from some familiar cranks who wanted to gloat after Kari Lake tipped over her chess piece and ceded the match to Stephen Richer.

Richer, the Maricopa County recorder, had sued Lake for defamation and now she and her attorneys had filed a motion for default judgement in the case.

Richer, himself, went out on social media to celebrate his victory and called Lake a liar for accusing him of rigging the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election, which in actuality, she had lost.

Yes, Ms. Lake lost.

That brought out a Twitter brigade, a very light brigade, that blew its little gust of wind at me because I’m the knothead who wrote several months ago that Richer’s defamation lawsuit is either “ridiculous” or “stupid” or “silly.”

I can’t remember which it was, and in the immortal words of our beloved Clay Thompson, “I’m too lazy to look it up.”

Whatever I wrote, it was bad, and I think the social media trolls were half-expecting me to slink away after having been so spectacularly wrong.

But I wasn’t wrong.

I was right.

I’m still right.

And if the day has finally arrived that I’m an island unto myself, well, so be it. I’m still hoisting the Jolly Roger.

This lawsuit is ridiculous on its face as it attempts to penetrate the safe harbor created over many, many decades around elections and political speech — the safe harbor that allows people and politicians, such as Kari Lake, to make perfect asses of themselves.

I personally like Stephen Richer. As integrity goes, the 2022 election could not have been in better hands than his and former Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates’.

I made that point the week Kari Lake started with her spurious accusations.

Stephen Richer is also my kind of Republican, old school, pre-MAGA, not insane — a stand-up guy.

As for Kari Lake, I reject her BS, but I defend her right to say it.

Why?

Because I don’t want to live in a universe in which political speech is actionable. I don’t want the sturm and drang and pure bedlam of elections to be muzzled because everyone is afraid of getting sued.

Not just getting sued.

But finding themselves on a field in which some special-interest group has lined up perhaps millions of dollars and a legion of lawyers behind an injured party.

Technically speaking, this was Stephen Richer’s personal defamation lawsuit. Practically speaking, this was the political left flexing its muscle at Kari Lake.

The Big Money and Big Law behind Richer is a group called Protect Democracy, which would in virtually any other context be Richer’s adversary.

Their origins go back to roughly 2017, when Politico described them as “top lawyers” from the “Obama White House.” They called themselves “United to Protect Democracy,” which got its name from a line in Obama’s farewell address.

The group incorporated as both a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), allowing it to operate as a nonprofit, while joining in some forms of political advocacy as well, Politico reported.

Protect Democracy describes itself as “a cross-ideological nonprofit group dedicated to defeating the authoritarian threat ... and protecting our freedom and liberal democracy.”

I suppose you could argue that going after an Arizona election denier such as Republican Kari Lake is a worthy cause for an organization committed to defending American democracy.

But when the state was Georgia, it was a much different story.

In 2018, Protect Democracy took the side of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who would turn out to be that year’s big election denier.

On the week of the 2018 Georgia election, Protect Democracy, representing a group of that state’s voters, filed a federal lawsuit that argued that Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and Abram’s opponent for governor, had violated the voters’ constitutional rights with “his biased administration of the election.”

In a release, Protect Democracy accused Kemp of machinations designed to “suppress likely Democratic voters.”

The lawsuit sought “to force Kemp’s removal from any role in overseeing a governor’s race that is still too close to call and has not yet been decided.”

Before a hearing could begin, Kemp declared victory, resigned from office and went to work on his transition.

Protect Democracy celebrated and argued its lawsuit had successfully forced Kemp’s resignation.

Kemp saw it differently. He said the lawsuit was “quite honestly, ridiculous,” reported the Washington Post.

What Stacey Abrams did next will sound familiar to Arizona voters. In fact, it will sound Very Kari.

Here’s how National Review’s Jim Geraghty summed it up:

“When all the votes were counted in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, Stacey Abrams lost by more than 54,000 votes. She insisted she won. Ten days after the election, Abrams said that Brian Kemp would be taking office, but that she was not offering ‘a speech of concession.’ She declared the election was ‘stolen from Georgians.’ She told the New York Times she had won her election but didn’t get to have the job and that ‘I do not concede that the process was proper, nor do I condone that process.’ She made similar comments in many interviews throughout 2019 and 2020.

“Then in 2021, she had the audacity to claim that because she never filed a lawsuit, ‘I did not challenge the outcome of the election, unlike some recent folks did.’ Yet she continues to contend, ‘the game was rigged against the voters of Georgia.’ She says it was rigged, but she’s not challenging the outcome.”

Five months after the Georgia gubernatorial election, Protect Democracy was still fighting in Abrams’ corner with a release they headlined, “Congress is right to scrutinize charges of voter suppression in Georgia.”

They were still nattering on about Kemp.

Lake's defamation loss:Is really a win (for her)

“Congress has a very legitimate interest in investigating Kemp’s activities. Kemp’s actions violated the Constitution,” they argued in their release.

That went nowhere.

Nor did a federal lawsuit filed by Abrams’ voting rights group, Fair Fight Action.

In September 2022, a federal judge upheld Georgia’s election laws.

I sympathize with Stephen Richer, Bill Gates and their families for having to endure threats against them. I stand with anyone who agrees that people who make those threats should be prosecuted to the hilt.

But those things go with the territory. Every high-profile person in this metropolis gets threats. I’m barely above the trench line and I’ve gotten them. My wife has gotten them.

Some high-profile employees of mine in the past have gotten threats that would make your hair stand on end. I know one public person who has probably gotten more death threats in a month than most Arizona politicians will get in their lifetimes.

I miss Mary Rose Wilcox, the former Maricopa County supervisor, who didn’t just get death threats, but actually got shot, and didn’t whine about it as much we do.

Politics and the public eye come with calculated risks, and wild and slanderous accusations. They come with every sort of liar and jackass and reprobate.

You step into politics and you will get beat up and bruised.

But we cannot turn political speech, even outrageously false political speech, into actionable offenses that trigger armies of attorneys lining up in battle formation.

I don’t want to participate in an American political culture whose first prerequisite is to lawyer up.

And neither do you.

Phil Boas is and editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

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I'm sticking by it: Richer was wrong to sue Kari Lake

8 33
28.03.2024

As tweet storms go, it wasn’t much.

Just a wisp from some familiar cranks who wanted to gloat after Kari Lake tipped over her chess piece and ceded the match to Stephen Richer.

Richer, the Maricopa County recorder, had sued Lake for defamation and now she and her attorneys had filed a motion for default judgement in the case.

Richer, himself, went out on social media to celebrate his victory and called Lake a liar for accusing him of rigging the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election, which in actuality, she had lost.

Yes, Ms. Lake lost.

That brought out a Twitter brigade, a very light brigade, that blew its little gust of wind at me because I’m the knothead who wrote several months ago that Richer’s defamation lawsuit is either “ridiculous” or “stupid” or “silly.”

I can’t remember which it was, and in the immortal words of our beloved Clay Thompson, “I’m too lazy to look it up.”

Whatever I wrote, it was bad, and I think the social media trolls were half-expecting me to slink away after having been so spectacularly wrong.

But I wasn’t wrong.

I was right.

I’m still right.

And if the day has finally arrived that I’m an island unto myself, well, so be it. I’m still hoisting the Jolly Roger.

This lawsuit is ridiculous on its face as it attempts to penetrate the safe harbor created over many, many decades around elections and political speech — the safe harbor that allows people and politicians, such as Kari Lake, to make perfect asses of themselves.

I personally like Stephen Richer. As integrity goes, the 2022 election could not have been in better hands than his and former Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates’.

I made that point the week Kari Lake started with her spurious accusations.

Stephen Richer is also my kind of Republican, old school, pre-MAGA, not insane — a stand-up guy.

As for Kari Lake, I reject her BS, but I defend her right........

© Arizona Republic


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