Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward was glad to invite an alt-right conspiracy theorist onto her campaign bus. She just doesn't want to talk about it very much.
Ward, who is hoping to win the Republican nomination in a primary contest next Tuesday, wants to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, also a Republican, who is retiring from his position.
So like many candidates do, she announced a campaign tour bus, which will include many right-wing personalities in support of her candidacy.
Among them is noted alt-right misogynist, racist, and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich.
Cernovich has, in the past, suggested that date rape isn’t a real thing. He’s also threatened journalists who have reported news stories that paint some conservatives in a bad light. And notably, he pushed the conspiracy theory which outlandishly (and wrongly) purported that Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, were running a pedophile ring at a Washington D.C. pizzeria, a thoroughly debunked story known as “Pizzagate.”
Because of that conspiracy theory, a man from North Carolina drove up to the establishment and shot a gun inside the building during what he called a “self-investigation” of the restaurant.
Ward is allowing Cernovich onto her campaign bus despite his theories and beliefs that are racist, misogynistic, and just plain false. But when confronted by MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt in an interview about what Cernovich’s role would be on her campaign, Ward simultaneously defended his being on the bus while also playing dumb about his extremism.
“I don’t really know what Mike Cernovich’s views are,” Ward said. “I know he's got an audience, and we want to serve everyone.”
Hunt then asked Ward about Cernovich’s role in pushing the Pizzagate conspiracy.
“Mike Cernovich has been associated with the Pizzagate theory that led to shots being fired at Comet Pizza here in Washington,” Hunt explained. “Do you believe what has been said about Hillary Clinton and pizza and all this nonsense that has been on the internet?”
Ward dishonorably tried to change the subject.
“All I know about Hillary Clinton is that she would have been a terrible president,” Ward said.
One of two things can be assumed from the back-and-forth between Ward and Hunt. Either Ward is completely ignorant about Cernovich’s history — in which case, why is he invited on the bus if she doesn’t know anything about him? — or, more likely, she does know about his extremist viewpoints and is choosing to feign ignorance about them in order to appease an extremist base of voters in her home state while also appearing centrist or moderate by not acknowledging his beliefs in her interview.
Ward cannot have it both ways — she should not expect voters to see her comments and believe two contradictory ideas. Either Cernovich is on her bus for a reason, or Ward is not thoroughly vetting individuals who are joining her campaign. Neither option is one that should warrant much trust in the candidate from voters in the Grand Canyon State.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr