Drag queen blasts GOP candidate for governor of Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) — Kari Lake, the frontrunner in the Republican primary for Arizona governor, denounced the growing cultural clout of drag queens, which is catching on to the right, in the latest social complaint.

But one of the most popular drag artists in Phoenix quickly denounced his comments over the weekend, saying Lake is a hypocrite who repeatedly parodied his performance.

Richard Stevens, who starred as Barbara Seville, said that Lake, a former television news anchor, regularly attended drag shows and even had her dress up as Marilyn Monroe at a private party. was hired and brought up his young daughter. He posted pictures with the drag queens of Lake on his social media accounts and screenshots of his interactions with them.

The brawl between the governor frontrunner and the leading drag queen attracted national attention and put Lake on the defensive for two weeks before voting began before Arizona’s August 2 primary. It also fuels frequent criticism of Lake’s conversion from a Barack Obama donor to a Donald Trump conservative.

“They kicked God out of schools and welcomed drag queens,” Lake tweeted Friday night. “They took down our flag and replaced it with a rainbow. They want to disarm Americans and militarize our enemies. Let’s get back to basics: God, guns and glory. ,

The next morning Stevens responded on social media: “I’ve performed for him. I’ve performed for his family. I’ve met his kids. I’ve been at his house, and I have his personal phone number and his Personal Facebook account.”

He told The Associated Press on Monday that he remained in touch with Lake and defended him privately, even though he ran a far-right campaign that he disagreed with. But when she came after the drag queens, she said, “This hypocrisy really bothered me.”

“I was personally hurt by that tweet,” Stevens said.

Stevens said that he first met Lake in the late 1990s, when he performed regularly at a gay bar near KSAZ Studio, where Lake was an evening anchor. He said that Lake and his co-workers would occasionally stop by the bar’s weekly drag show after the broadcast, and they recognized him from watching the news. They eventually struck up a friendship, he said. She sought sources from him to discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community, and he occasionally appeared on Fox 10 broadcasts.

Lake hired her about a decade ago to perform as Marilyn Monroe at a coworker’s baby shower, and there he met his daughter, whom he remembers at around 9 or 10 years old.

As Stevens’ post quickly gained traction on social media on Saturday, Lake’s campaign initially sparked a response by differentiating between a drag performer and a man impersonating a female celebrity.

The campaign published a statement Sunday condemning media coverage of the controversy and threatening to sue Stevens for defamation.

“Like most sane people, Kari Lake strongly opposes performing provocative dances for children of grown men or women, especially at the expense of the taxpayer,” the statement said. “Why would anyone oppose it?”

The statement called Stevens a “talented comedian and performer whom Kari Lake covered during her TV career” and pointed to her support for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

A spokesman for Lake, Russ Trumbull, declined to comment further on Monday, saying “it is now a legal matter.”

Lake jumped to the forefront after activating a GOP base and launching a campaign that earned Trump’s support. It has aggressively promoted false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. But he faces a challenge from businessman Karin Taylor Robson, whose family fortune has allowed him to spend much more than Lake and former U.S. Representative Matt Salmon on television commercials.

Drag shows feature men dressed in flamboyant women’s clothing while dancing and singing or lip-syncing. Once a relatively obscure subculture, they have exploded into the mainstream with the popularity of the television hit “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Some performances, especially light-night events at bars, can be risky. Others are promoted as family-friendly affairs, such as Drag Queen Story Hour.

Lake’s drag queen’s tweet caught fire this month with conservatives across the country who say drag shows are sexually abusing children.

Lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation in an effort to ban children from drag shows, and GOP leaders in the Arizona Senate say they have plans for a similar bill.

“The fact is that drag has existed forever,” Stevens said. “I’ve been doing drag longer than Kari is a Republican. But if you want to outlaw drag in front of kids, you better clear your calendar because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The first drag queen I saw was Bugs Bunny.”

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