Racism, bigotry, spreading lies, and pushing conspiracy theories would all be actions you’d imagine a candidate for U.S. Senate would try to avoid. But one Arizona conservative candidate and her husband are actively engaging in all of the above, attempting to solicit support from a group that finds no problems with those types of actions.
Kelli Ward, who is in a contentious primary race in the Republican Party to run for senator in Arizona this fall, and her husband, Michael Ward, are part of a team of right-wing administrators of a Facebook group with more than 94,000 followers simply called “Tea Party.” Among other far rightists, Pamela Geller and Jack Posobiec are also administrators.
According to research from Media Matters, the group frequently touts bigoted, inaccurate, and conspiracy theory-laden posts that don’t have an ounce of truth to them.
From Pizzagate to the belief that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, the posts are decisively false (and, in some cases, carry the potential to produce dangerous outcomes). One administrator even suggested the far-right “Unite the Right” rally, in which neo-Nazi protesters engaged in violence against counterprotesters (resulting in the death of Heather Heyer), was orchestrated by the left itself.
In a post made on Friday, one user derided Therese Patricia Okoumou, the woman who climbed the Statue of Liberty in protest of President Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrants from their children. That user shared an image of Okoumou, who praised Michelle Obama after she was arrested.
Okoumou “idolizes Mooch,” that user wrote, implying Michelle Obama. She placed a monkey emoji next to the name she used for the former first lady. The user also put out a hashtag at the end of the post: #ShouldvePushedHer.
It’s obvious that the Wards are trying to solicit support from these bigoted users. Michael Ward, for instance, submits posts asking for supporters to donate money to his wife’s political campaign.
The Wards themselves have shared questionable content in the past on other social media platforms, including pushing false stories involving a former DNC staffer named Seth Rich on Michael Ward's Twitter account.
Many right-wing pundits for the past few years have wrongly insisted that his murder was orchestrated by members of the Democratic Party or by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Those contentions have been deemed flat-out false, but facts don’t stop the Wards from posting fabrications that have already been thoroughly debunked.
It shouldn’t be surprising that bigots and conspiracy theorists seek out each other on social media. What’s difficult to process, however, is that these particular bigots and conspiracy theorists are serious contenders for the office of U.S. Senator representing Arizona.
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