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Is a white nationalist part of Kari Lake’s team? Her campaign won’t say.

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Is a white nationalist part of Kari Lake’s team? Her campaign won’t say.

Mar 04, 2024 | 6:06 pm ET
By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
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Is a white nationalist part of Kari Lake’s campaign team? Her campaign won’t say.
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Wade Searle poses with Kari Lake at a March 3 event that Lake, a GOP candidate for Senate, held for campaign volunteers. Photo via X/@wadesearle_

Kari Lake grinned widely and flashed a thumbs up as she posed for a photo Sunday with a far-right political operative who is reportedly a fervent follower and close associate of white nationalist Nick Fuentes. 

A few days before the event for campaign volunteers, Wade Searle, who worked as the digital director for U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar until shortly after he was unmasked as one the “strongest soldiers” for white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes, was standing almost directly behind Lake at a press conference where Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso endorsed her.

It’s unclear if Searle is working for Lake or what ties he has to her campaign for U.S. Senate.

Searle was outed by Talking Points Memo in May 2023 as a prominent member of the “groyper” movement, the name for a collection of young white nationalists who use online trolling tactics and aim to normalize extreme and racist views by aligning them with Christianity and so-called “traditional” values. 

Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and Hitler-loving racist, is largely seen as the leader of the groyper movement, which has a strong presence in Arizona. When Searle was working with Gosar, the congressman often posted memes steeped in white nationalist and neo-Nazi subculture. Searle was also not the only staffer in Gosar’s office with similar views. 

The Lake campaign did not respond to requests for comment on what role, if any, Searle has within the Lake campaign. Attempts to contact Searle, who has recently been marketing himself as a consultant for conservative political campaigns, were unsuccessful. 

“It’s troubling but not surprising to see Wade Searle associated with election denier Kari Lake,” Lindsay Schubiner, director of programs with the Western States Center, an extremism watchdog group, said in a statement to the Arizona Mirror. “This is a dangerous strategy intended to normalize and build power for white nationalism. Searle’s latest moves should be yet another reminder to our leaders of the importance of clearly and repeatedly rejecting bigotry and authoritarianism in our politics wherever it appears.” 

Searle has been posting recently about meeting with other movers and shakers within the conservative movement, such as conservative pundit and promoter of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory Jack Posobiec, who also has white nationalist ties

The former Gosar staffer has tagged groups like Students for Kari in social media posts and prominently displays a hashtag for the group Students for Trump. Questions sent to Students for Trump about Searle’s possible involvement with the organization were unreturned. 

Searle’s anonymous online persona was found by Talking Points Memo to have given money to Fuentes, made disparaging remarks about Blacks and Jews, and endorsed a conspiracy theory that has inspired multiple mass shooters

At the press conference in which Searle was present, Lake invoked the recent death of a University of Georgia woman, whose death has become a GOP talking point about immigration policy in the United States. Lake called the influx of legal and illegal immigration part of “Biden’s invasion” at the press conference. 

Lake has also faced criticism for her use of the term “invasion” and other similar rhetoric to describe immigration into the United States. Lake’s “War Room” account retweeted photos posted by Searle on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

Lake is running in the primary against Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, but is widely viewed as the frontrunner for the nomination. She is expected to face Phoenix Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego in November for the Senate seat. It is unclear if U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who was elected as a Democrat in 2018 but has since changed her registration to independent, will seek reelection.