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Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson Faces Pushback As He Continues To Question U.S. Capitol Insurrection

Stefani Reynolds
Getty Images
Senator Ron Johnson speaks during a U.S. Senate Budget Committee hearing regarding wages at large corporations on Capitol Hill, Feb. 25 in Washington, DC.

It's been four months of nearly non-stop controversy for Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. He has been a key supporter of former President Donald Trump's claims of voter fraud and has gone a step further to question whether the U.S. Capitol protestors in January were armed, and whether some of them were not Trump supporters.  

Ron Johnson went from millionaire business owner to U.S. senator in 2010, as part of a Republican electoral wave in Wisconsin. For years, he focused on cutting government spending. But last year he questioned the reach of the pandemic as he worked to help get Trump re-elected.

After Trump lost, Johnson called on Congress to investigate allegations of voter fraud. That led to NBC's Meet the Press host Chuck Todd leveling this charge at the senator on Jan. 3: "So essentially, you're the arsonist here."

Johnson rejected that label, instead blaming the media for what he claimed is a bias against Trump

It was only three days later that thousands of Trump supporters breached the Capitol.

Weeks later Johnson raised eyebrows again, telling WISN Radio in Milwaukee that the Jan. 6 attack was misportrayed.

"The fact of the matter is, this didn't seem like an armed insurrection to me. I mean armed, when you hear armed, don't you think of firearms?" said Johnson.

The Poynter Institute's Politifact called Johnson's claim "ridiculous revisionist history."

Wisconsin Democrats seized on his comments and started running a TV ad, including these words: "Johnson should resign. Ron Johnson unfit to serve." 


Instead, Johnson doubled down. During a Senate hearing, he read into the record an essay about the insurrection, written by a conservative conspiracy theorist.

"He describes four different types of people: 'Plain-clothes militants. Agents-provocateurs.  Fake Trump protestors and then disciplined, uniformed column of attackers’," said Johnson.

Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were incredulous. “Ron Johnson seems to be taking the lead on what the scope would be of how we look at protecting our country from domestic terrorism," said Pelosi.

When reached for comment, Sen. Johnson dismissed his critics.

"What I found astonishing is how many words people have put into my mouth. Things I've never said. Different motives they're trying to attribute to me that simply aren't true. All I've been trying to uncover in all my investigations is just determine the truth,'' he said.

The Director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, Charles Franklin, says for much of the senator's decade in office, about a third of registered voters in Wisconsin have said they don't know Johnson well enough to have an opinion of him.

In recent years, he says that percentage has shrunk a little, even though Johnson has not been the author of any major legislation.

Moderate voter Rita Biernat, who lives in a Milwaukee suburb, are says the senator's views are now too extreme.

"I have voted for Republicans. So, I'm not against Republicans. Nor am I against my family that's Republican. But, he's out of the ball game," said Biernat.

In 2016, Johnson pledged not to run for election after this term. But voter Peter Gilbert hopes Johnson changes his mind.

"He's a very good leader. He's one of the few senators in the whole Senate that takes a stand," said Gilbert.

On Mar. 3, in another Congressional hearing, Johnson yet again questioned the portrayal of the Jan. 6 insurrection. On Friday, he also made headlines by forcing a Senate clerk to read the entire $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, an effort that could delay the passage of the stimulus bill by up to 10 hours.

Johnson says he feels under no pressure to decide anytime soon whether to keep his pledge not to run for re-election.

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