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Kari Lake says she has a First Amendment right to lie about Stephen Richer

Kari Lake wants a judge to dismiss Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit against her.

Kari Lake says she has a constitutional right to call Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer a criminal.

To say that he personally sabotaged the 2022 election by adding 300,000 phony ballots into the vote tally.

To say that he intentionally set printers to shrink Election Day ballots so they couldn’t be counted.

It doesn’t matter if it’s all a lie, she and her attorneys say. She has a right to shout it to the heavens and he has no right to try to hold her accountable.

No matter how many death threats he and his family may have to endure.

Why did ASU sign on to defend Lake?

Actually, it’s not so surprising that the perpetually aggrieved Lake would make this argument, casting herself once again as the victim as she seeks dismissal of the defamation lawsuit Richer laid on her earlier this summer.

What is surprising — stunning, really — is that Arizona State University would support her election fraud hustle.

ASU’s First Amendment Clinic at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has signed on to defend Lake, contending that Richer has no right even to be heard on this issue.

“Even if judges in other actions in this controversy have held that Lake failed to present sufficient evidence of fraud to prevail in a claim (as opposed to finding it ‘false’), she is still entitled to have an opinion and state her beliefs about what happened in the 2022 election and who is to blame for mistakes,” her ASU and private attorneys wrote, in their motion to dismiss Richer’s lawsuit.

She is, indeed, entitled to have an opinion. But since when does freedom of speech mean freedom from consequences?

The freedom to call someone incompetent, certainly.

But the freedom to brand someone a criminal and face no repercussions when you can’t even back up your claim that a crime occurred?

Lake claims Richer is trying to silence her

For nine months, Lake has gone all scorched earth on elections workers in general and Richer in particular, detailing the many fantastical ways in which this lifelong Republican set out to steal the election from the Republican nominee for governor.

She’s long on accusations but painfully short on anything approaching proof, which is why she lost her election challenge in court and every appeal thus far.

Still she rages on, pitching conspiracy theories (which is fine) and detailing Richer’s supposed criminal acts (which is not, once your claims are thrown out of court).

And, of course, raising copious amounts of cash.

Richer filed his defamation lawsuit in June, saying he and his family have faced threats of violence and even death as a result of Lake’s accusations.

Richer explains: Why I’m suing Kari Lake for defamation

Her attorneys say his lawsuit amounts to a SLAPP suit — a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Richer, they claim, is trying to illegally silence Lake.

As if anybody could.

Ignore the consequences of false speech?

Defamation suits come with a high bar, but Team Lake says Richer shouldn’t even be allowed his day in court to present his case to a judge — to show how her falsehoods have harmed him and his family.

“This case presents an important opportunity for the Court to carry out the core purpose of Arizona’s recently amended Anti-SLAPP statute to prevent public officials from using private litigation as a means to punish and prevent speech on political issues that should be considered as part of the open public discourse guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions,” her attorneys wrote.

Whether Lake is telling the truth? That’s irrelevant, they tell us.

As apparently are the consequences of Lake’s words on Richer’s wife and children.

“‘False’ speech is not at issue here,” Lake’s lawyers say, “only the type of speech that ‘may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials’ that the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically said must be protected.”

Unpleasantly sharp?

Is that what we’re calling it now, when Lake calls the guy a crook?

Reach Roberts at [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kari Lake says she has a right to call Stephen Richer a crook