A local radio station told the Arizona-based CEO of a precious metals brokerage firm on Friday that it will not air ads in which he states he believes Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, is a racist.
Jim Clark, CEO of Phoenix-based Republic Monetary Exchange, told The Arizona Sun Times he felt so strongly about supporting Kari Lake for governor that he created his own ads, paying almost double the rate of ads for his own company to run them on KTAR. The middle-of-the-road radio station was running a barrage of pro-Hobbs ads but he hadn’t heard any in favor of Lake, so he wanted to create some balance.
The station ran the commercials for several weeks until the station balked at one where he stated, “Is Katie Hobbs a racist? I believe so.”
Clark’s question was almost the same as Talonya Adams, the Black former state legislative staffer who alleged her firing by Hobbs was racially discriminatory, asked in December.
“Is Katie Hobbs a racist as defined by the Oxford Dictionary?” Adams asked.
“Yes she is,” Adams answered, as News 12 reported.
Two juries agreed with Adams and found that Hobbs had engaged in racially discriminatory conduct in terminating Adams.
Hobbs admitted after the verdicts, “Looking back, there are probably a lot of things that I would have done differently. I know that in proceeding in her termination, I participated in furthering systemic racism.” Additionally, Hobbs produced a three-minute video apologizing profusely. “I recognize that my understanding and experience of racism has sometimes been too narrow,” she said at the time.
Clark says he believes his statement does not rise to the level of defamation because not only is he sure he is correct about Hobbs, but he included “I think” in the sentence.
There’s a much higher burden of proof required to show defamation of someone famous like Hobbs. In addition to showing that a statement was false and damages, there must also be proof of malice, which means showing that a false statement was knowingly made with reckless disregard for the truth.
Alex Kolodin, an Arizona elections lawyer, told The Sun Times there are little grounds for a defamation lawsuit. “If you’re a politician and you’re gonna file a defamation claim, forget about it,” adding that it’s rare anything ever rises to that level. He cited Rogers v. Mroz, where a modeling agency owner sued State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) over a radio ad attacking her opponent Steve Smith when she ran for Congress in 2018. Her ad stated, “Smith is a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking.” Smith worked for the modeling agency.
The Arizona Supreme Court held that the ads did not rise to the level of defamation largely since the modeling agency owner didn’t prove that the statement was false. Kolodin said about the case, “They were running ads against Smith because he advertised on a website linked with sex trafficking, and the Arizona Supreme Court was like, ‘eh, it’s politics, all of it’s like arguably true if you look at it a certain way.’ And the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari. The Supreme Court squints really, really hard to find arguably true when it comes to defamation. And that’s not even the standard, the standard is you were reckless with disregard for the truth.”
The businessman told The Sun Times he was “extremely disappointed” in the station, since he has bought ads from them for years.
“It is especially ironic for a talk station like KTAR, which purports to engage in robust public debate of the issues, to refuse to air my views about Katie Hobbs,” Clark said. “Hobbs is a public figure with a public record upon which my comments are founded. My criticism of Hobbs could be considered restrained compared to what political candidates say about one another on the airwaves day in and day out and I suspect could even be considered mild compared to the language of their own talk show hosts.”
The station told him they would not run the ad citing company policy, concerns that Hobbs might sue them, and FCC regulations. He pushed back, and they suggested canceling the contract. He reminded them that his weekly message was a continuous thread, and to interrupt that would defeat the purpose. He also told them they were denying him his First Amendment rights, pointing out this is not Facebook, Twitter or some other platform that boots people off for violating community standards.
Clark’s last message to his contact at KTAR stated, “I have no intention of changing my ad even one iota. Please provide, in writing (email) your reason for declining my ad provided to you today.” Clark spent a total of $45,446.10 on the ads, which are scheduled to run until November 7, the day before the election.
KTAR’s General Sales Manager Dave Zadrozny responded with an email to Clark Friday afternoon telling him the station was not backing down on its refusal to run the ad. “[I]f we cannot connect with you in the next 15 mins., our traffic department will need to remove your schedule from next week’s commercial logs. However, if you decide you would like to provide a revised spot or air one of your previous commercials, let us know, and we can reschedule for Tuesday.”
The verdicts are one of the main issues in the gubernatorial race. Lake has repeatedly called Hobbs out over them. The first jury awarded $1 million against Hobbs and the state, then after the judge ordered a second trial, a second jury awarded $2.75 million, which was reduced to $300,000 because of a federal law capping damages. Talonya Adams, the staffer she fired, was an attorney and the only black policy advisor at the state capitol. Adams called for Hobbs to resign as Arizona secretary of state and drop out of the gubernatorial race last December.
You are a self-admitted, twice convicted racist who is guilty of racial and sex discrimination.
I believe in equal pay for men and women regardless of skin color. https://t.co/hJGbwViFvk
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) August 7, 2022
Numerous well-known leaders, including minorities and Democrats, have denounced Hobbs’ behavior as racist. Six prominent black leaders urged Democrats to consider supporting another candidate during the primary race. Cloves Campbell, a former state representative and publisher of the Arizona Informant, the only black-owned weekly newspaper in the state, told The Arizona Republic during the primary, “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Katie Hobbs is not successful.” State Senator Teresa Martinez (R-Casa Grande) called for Hobbs to resign.
The Sun Times asked KTAR for comment but did not receive a response by press time.
Is Katie Hobbs a racist? I think so.
Hi, Jim Clark, Republic Monetary Exchange.
I can’t tell what is in Katie Hobbs’ heart. But I can count the millions of dollars in jury awards against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs for discriminatory actions.
Further, Hobbs isn’t willing to explain herself in open debate with Kari Lake.
Kari Lake isn’t another political hack. She doesn’t owe favors to political insiders and lobbyists. So join me in supporting Kari Lake for governor. That’s why this ad is paid for by me, Jim Clark, a private citizen, not affiliated with any campaign or political action committee.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.