Trump-backed Republican Blake Masters tried to dodge questions about whether he leaked material on his website that supports the former president’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged.
During an often tense debate, Mr. Masters struggled to say whether he had removed that material and also removed a tougher position on abortion rights — a position that his Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, said was part of the “ of his “dangerous” views.
In August, a page on his website titled “The Masters Plan” read: “We must get serious about election integrity. The 2020 election was a rotten mess – if we had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today and America would be a lot better off.”
After winning the Republican primary for the Senate race in Arizona, outfits such as CNN reported how the 36-year-old had changed his website, apparently as part of an effort to tone down his image for the general election. Now, that page simply says, “We must take election integrity seriously.”
Thursday’s debate comes a month before voters across the country go to the polls in midterm elections, and while polls give Mr. Kelly a roughly four-point lead, the seat is high on the target list of Republicans looking to recapture control of the Senate.
On Thursday night at the event in Phoenix, Mr. Masters, 36, whose campaign is being funded by the tech billionaire Peter Thiel, was asked if he believed Joe Biden was the president-elect.
“Joe Biden is absolutely the president. I mean, my god, have you seen the gas prices lately,” he replied.
The moderator asked if he believed Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.
“I’m not trying to trick you. He is duly sworn. He is the rightful president. He’s in the White House and unfortunately for all of us, Joe Biden is the president. It has been for the last two years,” he said.
“And everything he’s touched in the last two years has been done well, you know what. Everything is on fire. Joe Biden is to blame. I wish he wasn’t president. That’s him.”
Blake Masters accuses rival of lying about abortion stance
Mr. Masters then talked about how Biden became president.
“I think it’s a problem that the FBI forced Facebook, they forced Facebook and other big tech companies, to censor true information about Hunter Biden’s crimes in the weeks before the 2020 election. And so millions of Americans didn’t get to read about that, they failed to read about Hunter Biden.”
He was asked if he believed the election was “rigged”.
“I suspect that if the FBI wasn’t working with big technology and big media to censor Hunter Biden’s information or Hunter Biden’s criminal history,” he said.
“Yeah, I suspect that changed a lot of people’s votes. I suspect President Trump would be in the White House today if big tech and big media and the FBI didn’t work together to tip Joe Biden in.”
Kelly, 58, a former astronaut who was elected in a special election in 2020 and is running for re-election, said the only reason people were talking about the issue was because “my opponent Blake Masters put out a video asking who won the presidential election here in state of Arizona.”
Mr. Masters, a hedge fund investor, also changed his website to remove more extreme positions on abortion. He previously said he supported a “federal personhood law” and declared: “I’m 100% pro-life.”
On Thursday, Mr. Masters said he supported the 15-week abortion ban that came into force in September after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
He was asked if he changed his website.
“I encourage people to go read my website now. It remains the most pro-life, most detailed agenda of any Senate candidate running nationally. I’m pro-life. I am proud to be pro-life. I’ll never get away from it,” he said, dodging the question.
Liberal candidate Mark Victor, who was also debating, spoke next.
“This evasion by Blake Masters is exactly why you have to have a principle and stick to it,” he said. “Did you specifically ask him to screw up his website? And he said you can go to my website now and look at it. This is evasion.”