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Ron Watkins is a very busy man. Since resigning as the administrator of the message board 8chan, where he facilitated the rise of QAnon, he’s become an election integrity expert, started his own website about aliens, and launched a career as an NFT artist.
But on Tuesday night, the man many believe to be Q took time out of his busy schedule to have dinner with Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate and front-runner to become Arizona’s next governor.
Watkins is in Arizona trying—and failing—to get a meeting with Attorney General Mark Brnovich to discuss bogus election fraud conspiracies.
Taking a break from his tireless efforts to undermine democracy, Watkins posted a picture of himself and Lake on his hugely popular Telegram channel.
“Just had dinner with Kari Lake, the next Governor of Arizona,” Watkins wrote. “She inspires me with her tenacity and willingness to lead the fight to take back Arizona from do-nothing RINOs.”
Watkins also posted a link to Lake’s campaign fundraising site, in a post that has been viewed over 54,000 times as of Wednesday morning.
Lake denied that she had dinner with Watkins. “I attended a candidate meet-and-greet at a home last night,” Lake told VICE News. “There were several other candidates in attendance. There were more than 75 Arizona voters there who showed up to hear me speak about our candidacy. I took photos with many of the people who asked for them. I take dozens of photos with Arizonans each day at campaign events across the state.”
Lake did not respond when asked if she knew who Watkins was.
Lake spent 27 years as a TV news anchor, before quitting her job with Fox 10 News in June. In a video announcing her departure, she said: “In the past few years, I haven’t felt proud to be a member of the media. I found myself reading news copy that I didn’t believe was fully truthful or only told part of the story.”
But if her pronouncements over the last few months are anything to go by, Lake’s current relationship to the “truth” is tenuous at best.
Since announcing her candidacy for governor, Lake has dived headfirst into pretty much every single far-right conspiracy, while simultaneously building her campaign around themes of trust and integrity.
From playing down the Jan. 6 insurrection by claiming that the Jan. 6 rioters were “invited in” by Capitol Police, to claiming that Black Lives Matter is “a way to incite violence and stir things up,” Lake has been appealing directly to the Trumpian wing of the GOP from the start.
In late September, former President Donald Trump issued a statement endorsing Lake’s candidacy saying she “will fight to restore Election Integrity (both past and future!).”
Of course, part of the reason Lake got Trump’s backing is that she’s already heavily involved in promoting the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, repeatedly calling for the election to be “decertified” even though that is not something that can happen.
Last month, on the day the bogus Arizona “audit” report was released by the Cyber Ninjas, Lake arrived at a protest in front of the Senate building surrounded by armed bodyguards dressed in military-style fatigues.
She has also appeared as a regular guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast as well as a radio show hosted by former White House adviser Seb Gorka.
This has earned her the praise and backing from not only Trump but also far-right figures like disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Arizona congressman Paul Gosar.
The 2022 midterms are still 13 months away, but Lake is already generating a huge amount of interest in Arizona, regularly attracting hundreds of people to campaign events in the state.
While no reliable polling is available this far out from Election Day, experts told the Arizona Mirror that Lake is easily the front-runner for the GOP nomination, meaning she will go head-to-head with Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state and the likely Democratic nominee.
But Lake is already laying the groundwork for her fight with Hobbs, repeatedly saying Hobbs will be convicted and jailed for her role in conducting the 2020 election. “I think Katie Hobbs is going to have a really tough time campaigning from behind bars, to be honest,” Lake told Bannon on a recent podcast.
Bannon responded to the suggestion by laughing and telling Lake, “You’ve become very Trumpian, very quickly.”
Though her dinner date with Watkins is Lake’s most explicit endorsement of the QAnon conspiracies that infiltrated the GOP in recent years, it should come as no real surprise— especially when you consider that Lake is simply following in the footsteps of so many GOP lawmakers in Arizona, who are already deeply embedded in the QAnon swamp.
For example, state Sens. Wendy Rogers and Sonny Borelli, along with state Reps. Mark Finchem and Leo Biasiucci, will speak at the “Patriots Double Down” conference in Las Vegas next week.
They will be joined on stage by a who’s who of QAnon influencers, anti-vaxxers, grifters, and conspiracy theorists—including Ron Watkins.