Trump Backs One-Time Critic and Dem Donor in Crowded AZ Primary

Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who admonished Trump in 2017, lands former president's endorsement

Kari Lake /
September 30, 2021

Former president Donald Trump endorsed a one-time critic and Democratic donor in Arizona's crowded Republican gubernatorial primary.

Trump on Tuesday announced his support of Kari Lake for Arizona governor, calling the former news anchor a "fantastic person" who will "make … the MAGA movement very proud." In 2017, however, La​​ke admonished Trump for his infamous press conference held after the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va. Lake told her Facebook followers the press conference marked "a real $hit$h0w" during which Trump "showed absolutely no self-control."

"I'm fully aware that President Trump is an outsider to politics, but surely he can hold his tongue, not speak off-the-cuff and step all over his message," Lake wrote. "It was like watching a train crash. … Never thought I'd say this, Mr. President, if you can't control yourself, tweet, don't talk."

Given the former president's sensitivity to criticism when making endorsements, it is noteworthy for Trump to throw his weight behind a candidate who lambasted him over his rally response. Trump staunchly defended his remarks, which saw him place "blame on both sides." Prior to the 2017 Trump Tower press conference, the then-president chastised the "fake media" for not being satisfied with his response. Lake worked as a TV anchor in Phoenix at the time.

The endorsement could propel Lake to the front of a crowded GOP primary field, which includes former congressman Matt Salmon and state treasurer Kimberly Yee. Lake has already sent a number of fundraising emails touting Trump's support, including one that called Trump "the greatest president of my lifetime."

Trump did not return a request for comment. Lake campaign spokesman Ross Trumble pointed to two statements Lake issued via Twitter.

In addition to Lake's 2017 Trump criticism, the Arizona gubernatorial hopeful has boosted Democrats in other elections. She donated to Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama. Lake sparred with local reporters over the contributions during the opening weeks of her campaign, accusing one of conducting a "hit piece interview." 

Lake made her first ever political donation to Kerry in 2004, and she officially left the GOP two years later, changing her party affiliation to independent ahead of the 2006 midterms. Lake later registered as a Democrat in 2008 and held the affiliation for four years. She justified the contributions to Democrats by saying she "thought the Republican Party had lost its way with the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq" and "was really excited about the first black president." 

Lake entered the gubernatorial race in June as the "only conservative, America First Trump Republican in the race." Prior to her run, Lake left her job as a Fox 10 Phoenix anchor due to what she called a lack of "balance in coverage" in "every newsroom, at every level, and in each position." 

"I found myself reading news copy that I didn't believe was fully truthful, or only told part of the story, and I began to fear that I was contributing to the fear and division in this country by continuing on in this profession," Lake said in March.