CBS interviewed an abortion opponent in Arizona and didn't disclose her close ties to Kari Lake

Beyond “abortion rights opponent,” Merissa Hamilton is also a right-wing operative who has worked with Lake, run for office herself, and pushed false election-fraud claims

Once again, a national broadcast outlet has failed to adequately identify a conservative man-on-the-street source in its television coverage. This time, CBS News omitted any mention of an Arizona activist’s well-documented working relationship with Arizona Senate candidate and election denier Kari Lake.

During a report on Arizona Republicans blocking another effort to repeal Arizona’s near-total abortion ban, CBS News featured a soundbite from Merissa Hamilton, identifying her only as an abortion rights opponent.

“We need to save freedom in our state,” said Hamilton. “We need to save our constitution. Our rights are under threat every single day.”

Video file

Citation From the April 17, 2024, edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell 

Beyond being an “abortion rights opponent,” Hamilton has an illustrious career as both a right-wing operative and a political candidate.

Last May, prior to Lake’s October announcement about her Senate run, the Trump ally named Hamilton to lead a ballot-chasing operation, because, in Lake’s words, “we cannot allow them to steal another election from we the people.”

One Arizona journalist described her as “Kari Lake’s right-hand gal.”

Ironically, CBS was ideally positioned to ask an interesting question: What does a hardline anti-abortion activist think about Lake suddenly opposing Arizona's 1864 anti-abortion law after championing it as recently as 2022?

The answer could have been revealing, especially considering Hamilton’s relationship with Lake. Instead of actual insight, all the CBS audience received was more banal anti-abortion talking points from Hamilton.

The New York Times similarly quoted Hamilton without making the connection to Lake, but the paper at least noted her position as president of an activist group in Arizona, EZAZ.

In 2020, Hamilton ran for mayor of Phoenix and ultimately lost to the incumbent candidate by a large margin. During the campaign, an investigative report from The Arizona Republic revealed Hamilton’s membership in a private Facebook group filled with far-right conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric against Muslims and LGBTQ people, which drew condemnation from the Human Rights Campaign.

After her failed mayoral bid, Hamilton worked as a national grassroots director for FreedomWorks, a right-wing nonprofit that once bolstered the rise of the tea party movement and is now affiliated with Project 2025.

In May 2023, Lake tapped Hamilton to head her ballot-chasing initiative.

From the Arizona Mirror:

A day after a judge shot down her challenge to the results of the 2022 governor’s race, Kari Lake called a press conference to make a “big announcement.” 

But that announcement wasn’t that the failed 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate was  launching a bid for U.S. Senator or that she’s appealing the case, although she said she has plans to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, Lake announced that she’s starting a ballot chasing initiative, an effort to keep track of Republicans and independents on Arizona’s early voting list and make sure they actually cast their ballots, and to register new voters. 

Lake bragged that she had millions of dollars committed and thousands of people on board for the ballot chasing initiative, to be led by conservative activist Merissa Hamilton.

The “Kari Lake War Room” X (formerly Twitter) account hyped the partnership between Lake and Hamilton, claiming that the two “are building the greatest election apparatus in Arizona history.”

In addition to Lake's well-documented election denial — which includes denying the results of her ill-fated Arizona gubernatorial bid in 2022 — the candidate has a history of flip-flopping. Most recently, she was called out for backtracking in her previous endorsement of Arizona’s 19th-century abortion ban.

Since cozying up to Lake, Hamilton has made local headlines for her own partisan antics.

According to SanTan Sun News, Hamilton caused chaos and confusion at a Chandler, Arizona, city council meeting after posting a misleading video to her 25,000 X followers urging them to stop a supposed “road diet” effort in Chandler.

“That transportation approach [was] not up for consideration in Chandler,” according to the Sun.

Hamilton has also used her social media following to bolster right-wing claims of election fraud and legitimize Lake’s platform of election denialism.

From an Arizona Republic op-ed:

The polls weren’t even closed in Arizona before members of the MAGA Nation started complaining that the fix was in on Tuesday’s election.

Cue Kari Lake’s right-hand gal, Merissa Hamilton, who was there, video camera in hand, at the Paradise Valley Unified School District headquarters, where a drop box closed at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

As advertised.

“ABSOLUTE CHAOS ON ELECTION DAY IN @MARICOPACOUNTY (AGAIN),” Hamilton breathlessly announced, in a social media post that had more than a half a million views. “Per dozens of voters @RecordersOffice told people they could vote until 7 pm. @PV It closed @ 4:30. Several voters say they can’t vote now. We’ve talked to hundreds of voters tonight to redirect them to new locations.”

Naturally, the leader of the band picked up the refrain.

“The courts in Arizona have a chance to make this right,” U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake replied, ensuring that Hamilton’s message reached her 1.6 million followers. “I hope they don’t screw it up. Our republic can not withstand much more of this.”