After building good rapport with far-right media figures and pro-Trump trolls, Dr. Kelli Ward, a Republican who is running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, has gained the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity. Leading up to Hannity’s endorsement, Ward made wild claims about undocumented immigrants, rubbed elbows with white nationalists and racists, and smeared Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, including, at one point, blaming McCain for the creation of ISIS.
Sean Hannity endorses Kelli Ward for Arizona Senate
Hannity announced his support for Kelli Ward for Senate. Sean Hannity hosted Dr. Kelli Ward, a Republican, on his radio show on August 23 and announced that he was endorsing her in her bid to unseat Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the U.S. Senate. From the August 23 edition of Premiere Radio Netwworks’ The Sean Hannity Show:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Well, you know, I got to tell you something, and I supported you last time; we put you on the program a number of times last time. I warmly offer you my endorsement and my support. I think you'd be a great senator.
KELLI WARD: Thank you.
HANNITY: And so you can tell your crowd there that Sean Hannity just endorsed you again.
WARD: Sean Hannity just endorsed me.
HANNITY: All right, there we go. By the way, for some people that could be the kiss of death. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 8/23/17]
Ward has a cozy relationship with far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, and fake news purveyors
Infowars host Roger Stone reportedly worked for Ward’s 2016 campaign. According to a Politico report, in March of 2016 Infowars host Roger Stone said he was working for Ward, who, at the time, was challenging Sen. John McCain in Arizona’s Republican primary. Ward denied that Stone was working “directly” for the campaign, “though she didn’t deny that he may be aiding her.” From April 15, 2016, report:
Controversial GOP operative and Trump confidante Roger Stone said last month that he’s now working for Kelli Ward, who is running against Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary in Arizona. But Ward says that Stone is not officially working for the campaign – though she didn’t deny that he may be aiding her steep battle. “As far as I know, he does not work directly for us,” she said. “I don’t know Roger Stone, I’ve never met him and never talked to him.” [Politico, 4/15/16]
On conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles’ radio show, Ward fearmongered that Arizonans are being “terrorized” by immigrants. In June 2016, Ward appeared on Trunews, a radio show hosted by Rick Wiles, to claim that Americans living along the U.S. southern border were being “terrorized” by immigrants. Ward also asserted that the U.S. had allowed an “occupation along the border.” Wiles is a conspiracy theorist who has opined that the Ebola epidemic could “be a good thing if it ends up giving an ‘attitude adjustment’ to all the gays and atheists, along with people who use pornography or have had an abortion,” according to Right Wing Watch. Wiles has also repeatedly attempted to cast former President Barack Obama as the “antichrist” and warned of Christian genocide in the U.S.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/7/16, 8/6/14; Media Matters, 10/30/14]
During an interview with then-Infowars reporter Joe Biggs, Ward remarked that McCain is “directly responsible for the rise of ISIS.” In June 2016, Ward attended a Trump rally in Arizona, where she spoke with Joe Biggs, a former Infowars reporter and a speaker at a recent white supremacist rally in Boston. Ward told Biggs that McCain was “directly responsible for the rise of ISIS” and condemned his “support” for “amnesty and open borders.” Biggs has a frightening history of promoting conspiracy theories including the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which claimed that a Washington, D.C., pizzeria was operating a pedophile ring with connections to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's staffers. From Ward’s June 2016 interview with Biggs:
JOE BIGGS: I’m glad to see someone challenge Sen. John McCain. That is really making me happy. So, tell me a little bit about your platform, and then about the remarks about how you believe he is kind of responsible for the rise of ISIS.
KELLI WARD: Yes, well, I’m running on a small-government platform -- less taxes, less regulations, the strongest defense in the world, the strongest military, personal responsibility, and following the Constitution. I don’t think you can go wrong with that kind of a platform. And, yes, I took a punch at John McCain. Now, he took a punch at the president, right? Well, kind of. But he punched and then he ran backwards and said, “Oh no, no, I’m sorry, I misspoke.” I will tell you that John McCain is directly responsible for the rise of ISIS. I’m not misspeaking. I’m telling you the truth. His policies that he has had in place have allowed for a vacuum to be created in the Middle East that has been filled by a radical, jihadi, Islamic terror element. Now the thing that is most concerning for me here on our soil is that John McCain has also supported amnesty and open borders, and so we have left a pathway -- a wide pathway -- open for those emboldened elements to come right into our country and affect our country, our soil, and our citizens. It’s unacceptable. [YouTube, 6/18/16; The Boston Globe, 8/17/17]
Ward attended an “America First Unity Rally” hosted by fringe media personalities, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones. On July 18, 2016, Ward appeared at the pro-Trump “America First Unity Rally” in Cleveland, OH, that featured speakers and hosts who made racist and sexist attacks against opponents; called for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ executions; openly discriminated against minorities; led the movement that claims the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job”; and alleged that President Obama and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are not American citizens. [Media Matters, 7/18/16]
White nationalist political party leader William Johnson has claimed that Ward asked for his “support” during her 2016 campaign. In August 2016, William Johnson, who heads the American Freedom Party and “has called for a whites-only United States and the deportation of other races and ethnicities,” told The Daily Beast that Ward had sought out his support during her 2016 primary race against McCain. In response to her request, Johnson promised Ward that he would support her campaign financially, but noted that Ward “need[ed] to understand” that he was a “white nationalist.” Johnson said that after he self-identified as a white nationalist, Ward told him she would “get back to him.” From the August 8, 2016, article:
“On Friday, I got a call for Dr. Kelli Ward seeking my support,” Johnson said. “I told her I would support her financially, but she needs to understand that I am a white nationalist. She said, ‘I’ll get back to you,’ which sounded like a ‘I like you as a friend’ response in the dating context.” [The Daily Beast, 8/8/16; Media Matters, 8/12/17]
Ward has tagged pro-Trump troll Bill Mitchell in multiple tweets. Ward has specifically tagged Bill Mitchell in her tweets at least three times this year. Mitchell is a radio host and Twitter troll who has gained notoriety by being a loyal Trump personality. [Twitter, 6/1/17, 6/21/17, 6/27/17; Media Matters, 4/26/17; The Washington Post, 7/18/16]
Ward tagged pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec in a tweet that condemned “illegal alien crime.” In June, Ward tweeted a link to her personal website and tagged troll and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. Posobiec has a close relationship with conspiracy theory websites, heavily pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, and has claimed to have started multiple pro-Trump smear campaigns, including reportedly holding a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump rally in order to smear the protesters. Posobiec has denied planting the sign. [Twitter, 6/27/17; Media Matters, 5/11/17; BuzzFeed, 1/11/17]
Ward retweeted “alt-right” figure Cassandra Fairbanks to smear McCain. In July, Ward retweeted “alt-right” figure Cassandra Fairbanks, who is employed by the fringe blog Big League Politics and who has previously written for the Russian state-sponsored outlet Sputnik. Fairbanks tweeted an edited version of a McCain campaign ad to make it appear that McCain was in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Ward retweeted Fairbanks, adding, “I.Told.You.So.” [Twitter, 7/28/17; Media Matters, 5/5/17, 6/16/17]
Ward spoke to Breitbart News Daily where they parroted her claim that Flake supports “amnesty.” Appearing on radio show Breitbart News Daily, Ward attacked Flake, calling him “one of the original Never Trumpers” and commenting that he is “weak” on the issue of immigration. From the August 22 Breitbart report:
Dr. Kelli Ward, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the Republican primary, talked with Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Tuesday regarding President Trump’s planned rally on Tuesday in Phoenix and Trump’s praise for her over Jeff Flake on Twitter.
Ward said, “In my campaign, border security and stopping illegal immigration is the number one issue, so I’m glad he’s getting down there and is going to get up close and personal with the border patrol and also see what is happening down in the Yuma sector, and then he’s going to be in Phoenix.”
Ward added that she expects to see a large crowd to welcome the president.
“Sen. Flake is one of the original Never Trumpers,” said Ward, adding that Flake is weak on both amnesty and border security, the cornerstones of her platform. [Breitbart, 8/22/17]
Fox & Friends provided a platform to Ward to promote her campaign. In an interview with co-host Steve Doocy, Fox & Friends allowed Ward an open platform to promote her campaign and attack Flake. During the interview, Doocy failed to push her on her murky relationship with discredited extremists. From the August 21 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): We've got an interesting dynamic going on because the current U.S. senator, whose seat you’re interested in, is Jeff Flake. Jeff Flake is supported by [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [(R-KY)] and company because they're going to put millions of dollars into his campaign. Meanwhile you’ve got the president of the United States supporting your candidacy. What's going on here? It looks like a big battle behind the scenes between the president and Mitch McConnell.
KELLI WARD: I haven't been selected by any insider group to represent the state of Arizona. I’ve been selected by the people of our state and the people of our country, who are looking for a conservative voice in the United States Senate. And unfortunately for us in Arizona, we don't have a conservative Republican senator, we don't have a senator who supports the president at all. And so 2018, it's time for a change, to get someone in office who is going to support that “America First” agenda and move this country in the right direction.
DOOCY: Dr. Ward, a lot of people ran for the U.S. Senate last time and they said, “Give me another term and I’ll go and I will make sure that if I have a chance to vote on repeal and replace of Obamacare, I will vote for it.” There were a lot of people who were let down by their U.S. senators. How do we know that you're not going to go to Washington, D.C., say one thing, and then do something else?
WARD: As a physician myself, it is appalling that we have the House, the Senate, and the White House, and the insider political professionals couldn’t get the job done for the American people. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/21/17]
Ward has retweeted stories from known fake news purveyor TruthFeed. On at least two occasions, Ward retweeted TruthFeed, a discredited pro-Trump website that routinely pushes conspiracy theories and fake news stories that are favorable to the president:
[Media Matters, 12/14/16]
Many fringe media figures have already expressed their support for Ward
Alex Jones: “Kelli Ward, you’re amazing. I’m going to pray you get into the Senate, and I want everyone to donate [to your campaign] immediately.” On the March 23, 2016, edition of The Alex Jones Show broadcasted via YouTube, Jones hosted Ward, calling on national media to give her more coverage and complaining that the only coverage of her Senate run is coming from the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and Infowars. Jones concluded the show by lauding Ward, calling her “amazing” and saying, “I’m going to pray you get into the Senate”:
KELLI WARD: I hope that the media is going to start paying more attention to the race and to me, in particular, because I am the only person --
ALEX JONES (HOST): Well, sure. They know that it’d catch on even bigger so they’ve got to try to ignore a huge, probably the most important Senate race in the country. And I follow the news every day, and it’s really hard to see it, unless you’re looking at Drudge or Breitbart or Infowars. I mean, it’s just crazy.
JONES: Kelli Ward, you’re amazing. I’m going to pray you get into the Senate, and I want everyone to donate immediately. [YouTube, 3/23/16]
Breitbart: “Many believe Dr. Kelli Ward is the best possible chance to make a much-needed change in the United States Senate.” In what seemed to be an implied endorsement of Ward, Breitbart published an article in August, saying, “Dr. Kelli Ward’s challenge for Arizona Senator John McCain’s seat has been bolstered by new endorsements from Laura Ingraham and Right Wing News’ John Hawkins.” The article further stated, “With support from conservative all stars like Phyllis Schlafly, Laura Ingraham, Rep. Louie Gohmert, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, John Hawkins, and Gun Owners of America, many believe Dr. Kelli Ward is the best possible chance to make a much-needed change in the United States Senate.” From the August 8 Breitbart report:
Dr. Kelli Ward’s challenge for Arizona Senator John McCain’s seat has been bolstered by new endorsements from Laura Ingraham and Right Wing News’ John Hawkins. Both conservative leaders minced no words in their support for Dr. Ward and their criticisms of Senator McCain.
As the Arizona Senate’s August 30 primary draws near, political commentator and talk show host Laura Ingraham gave a raving endorsement of Dr. Kelli Ward on her radio show Friday: “This is a woman who was in the ER, an ER doctor with an incredible medical career, who… wants to make a difference, she is a conservative… [a] great person and it takes a lot of guts to be doing what she is. I think it is time for a change in Arizona, and I am going to endorse you Kelli.”
Echoing Ingraham’s sentiment, John Hawkins released an endorsement of Ward today as well: “I’m a big believer in the Buckley rule. In a primary you go for the most conservative candidate that can be elected. In the John McCain vs. Kelli Ward race, that’s clearly Kelli Ward.”
With support from conservative all stars like Phyllis Schlafly, Laura Ingraham, Rep. Louie Gohmert, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, John Hawkins, and Gun Owners of America, many believe Dr. Kelli Ward is the best possible chance to make a much-needed change in the United States Senate. [Breitbart, 8/8/16]
Breitbart financier Robert Mercer donated $300,000 to a pro-Ward super PAC. Politico reported on August 9 that Republican donor and Breitbart financier Robert Mercer has donated $300,000 to a pro-Ward super PAC:
One of Donald Trump’s most generous political benefactors is providing a six-figure donation to a super PAC devoted to unseating Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has been fiercely critical of the president.
Robert Mercer, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire who was intimately involved in Trump’s rise and helped to bankroll his 2016 campaign, is contributing $300,000 to a super PAC supporting former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year. [Politico, 8/9/17]
Posobiec: “Mercer donates $300,000 to [Ward] PAC to take out Never Trump Jeff Flake!”
Pro-Trump super PAC linked to fake news sites has been consulting and providing financial support for Ward’s campaign. The Hill reported that Great America PAC, “a prominent pro-Trump super PAC,” has spent $20,000 on Ward’s campaign, marking “Great America PAC's first independent expenditure on behalf of a candidate other than Trump in months, according to Federal Election Commission filings.” Additionally, the PAC’s founder and executive director have both joined Ward’s campaign as consultants. Great America PAC is connected to at least one fake news site, American Action News, which routinely directs viewers to donate to the PAC. [The Hill, 8/23/17; The Associated Press, 8/11/17; BuzzFeed, 6/15/17]
Internet troll Mike Cernovich to Trump: “You should've backed [Ward] against McCain.”
Fairbanks has voiced her support for Ward on Twitter.