Moments before Donald Trump took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday night, Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake addressed the audience and delivered one of the most dishonest speeches of the entire event.
Lake’s speech was a compilation of claims she has made repeatedly on social media, regarding both the 2020 presidential election and the pandemic. It wasn’t just Lake, along with other politicians who claimed, without hesitation, that the election was stolen. CPAC attendees repeated the lies uncritically as well.
Just last month, Lake tweeted the false claim that the Wisconsin Assembly voted to “withdraw its 10 electors for Joe Biden.” That is not true. What did happen, as we noted in a fact check, was that state Rep. Timothy Ramthun introduced a resolution to withdraw the electors. Because it was a “privileged resolution” it had to be referred to committee. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican, called the resolution “illegal” and said he would not advance it.
Lake’s speech was not dissimilar to one given by MyPillow CEO and “Stop the Steal” advocate Mike Lindell. But Lindell was added to the agenda at the last minute, was relegated to a spot off the main stage, and used some of his time to rail against his perceived enemies. Lake’s presentation and her appearance on the main stage served to elevate her outrageous claims.
Here are just the most notable false claims from her speech.
Lake began by saying there are “no good guys” in corporate media. “If there were good guys,” she said, “they would be telling us about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.” Earlier in the conference, Ben Carson claimed that ivermectin was a cure for COVID-19. USA Today, as we pointed out, fact checked these claims, noting: “Hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are not proven to effectively treat COVID.”
Lake then said the media refused to be honest about the risks from the COVID-19 vaccine and “they refused to be honest about a rigged 2020 election.”
At this point, Lake addressed the media directly: “I’m talking to you guys, right back there,” she said. “Why won’t you be honest with the people in this country?”
“We know what happened,” she told the audience, which responded with loud applause
“Stolen elections have consequences,” she said. “Schools are still masking our children. None of this would be happening, if the man who truly won the election was sitting in the oval office.”
Before she ended her speech, Lake, in an effort to get attendees to vote for Trump in the CPAC straw poll, assured the audience that their vote would be more secure than the 2020 election. “We know there’s no dead people voting.” The crowd erupted into laughter.
It goes without saying that Donald Trump did not “truly win the election” and dead people did not vote. We fact checked the claim that there were 120,000 voters over 100 years old in Wisconsin. We noted that according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission the reason that its voter registration database includes multiple voters with birth dates of 1/1/1900 and registration dates of 1/1/1918 is because of the following: “Default dates of birth and voter registration dates in the WisVote database is not a newly discovered issue or an indication of voter fraud. This information has been in the State Voter Registration System (SVRS) and WisVote system since at least 2006 and is the result of data migration from over 200 different legacy voter registration systems maintained by individual municipalities that in 2005 were moved into the comprehensive statewide system.”
The repercussions of such blatant disinformation were on display in conversations The Dispatch conducted with CPAC attendees.
I asked attendees about their thoughts on the election. There was a consensus that election integrity is important, but when I pressed about the details of fraud allegations, few pointed to anything specific.
Cody Larsen, a CPAC attendee, said “election fraud was factual, it was present.” Larsen said that there were “ballots dumps in Georgia, in Arizona” and that people were intentionally hiding fraud. “If they found out fraud existed,” he explained, “the whole country would fall apart. If people lose faith in the American election system they’re not going to vote.”
“Fraud is obvious and there is plenty of proof of it,” John Rumpel, another CPAC attendee, told me. “If there was no proof, Biden never would have won.”
I asked him what seemed to be the most stark example of fraud. “I forget what state, but we had two car loads of fraudulent ballots,” he said.
He said he couldn’t remember the state, but guessed that it might have been Pennsylvania. He claims he saw the ballots himself.
If the allegation is indeed about Pennsylvania, it’s a claim The Dispatch Fact Check has debunked before. (The claim stems from Jesse Morgan, a U.S. Postal Service subcontractor, who alleged, without any evidence, that he drove hundreds of thousands of fraudulent mail-in ballots across state lines, from Bethpage, New York, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. ) Despite his belief that the election was stolen, Rumpel believes “there is no sense in going back to 2020 because it would be impossible to change.”
Similarly, Pam Lathrop, a first-time CPAC attendee, said the issue around the election is clear: “2020 was stolen, I don’t care what anyone says, it was stolen. And there is proof to that.” She said that there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, but the election is “our concern.” I asked her what stood out as the best example of fraud. She said “mail-in voting,” and when I asked her if there was a state that was particularly problematic, she said “all of them.”
While it’s true that this year’s CPAC wasn’t primarily devoted to promoting the Big Lie like it was last year, 2020 was still very much relevant at CPAC, and Lake was the best example of just how resonant the discourse continues to be. Both Lake and the attendees spoke about fraud in the same way: with certainty, and without proof.