Ron Johnson More Trumpian Than Trump?
Wisconsin’s senior senator has become one of America’s leading crackpots.
Even Donald Trump has long since given up on the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a way to prevent contracting COVID-19. The president began promoting it in March and was still at it in June but finally yielded to overwhelming evidence that the drug should not be taken.
The Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency-use authorization for HCQ in hospitalized patients in June, the Washington Post reported, “concluding that safety risks, including heart problems, outweighed any potential benefits. It has also warned against using the drug in outpatient settings, saying it could cause serious heart rhythm problems.” Top health officials in the Trump administration, including Anthony S. Fauci and Deborah Birx, also warned against its use.
But wiser heads prevailed in Washington. Even Trump wasn’t as crazy as Ron Johnson on this issue.
But Johnson was just getting started. He has “spent months assailing public-health officials for refusing to support the use of hydroxychloroquine,” as New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait reported. In August, as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson wrote a letter co-signed by fellow Republican senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. The letter demanded that Hahn respond in five days with all information pertaining to FDA decisions that discourage the outpatient use of HCQ for early treatment or prophylaxis of COVID-19.
Johnson and his committee were back in action last week, holding a hearing on HCQ that “featured a stacked witness list, with three of the few remaining oddball supporters of the drug” testifying, Chait recounted. “Johnson railed against ‘the disinformation, the scaremongering, and the prescription log jam that has been created by bureaucrats.’”
“One might wonder why Johnson, whose committee covers homeland security, would probe questions of medical efficacy that lie far beyond his realm of pseudo-expertise,” Chait continued. “One might also wonder why he would revive this claim long after Trump himself has walked away from it. (When the president contracted COVID-19, he did not bother to take, or even claim to take, hydroxychloroquine.)”
Jha compared Johnson to “the snake-oil salesmen” of frontier America. “The hearing and the theater around it are a window into the disinformation campaigns that have hobbled our national response to the crisis and undermined belief in science. Neither Johnson nor his chosen witnesses — three doctors who have pushed hydroxychloroquine — displayed more than a passing interest in evidence. Intuition and the personal experiences of individual doctors were acclaimed as guiding principles.”
“Johnson and his witnesses questioned the integrity of the medical community, suggesting scientists were part of some ‘deep state’ conspiracy to deny Americans access to lifesaving therapies,” Jha lamented.
A group of Wisconsin doctors signed a letter criticizing Johnson and calling the treatments discussed at the hearing “unproven and potentially dangerous,” as CBS 58 reported.
“Instead of doing the hard work that will actually save lives, Sen. Johnson is giving the platform to extremist views that go against evidence-based science,” declared Dr. Robert Friedland, La Crosse ophthalmologist.
And more than two weeks after the Associated Press called the presidential election for Joe Biden, Johnson has yet to concede the results. He has raised concerns about “voter fraud” and “irregularities” while offering no proof of this and dismissed the idea of congratulating Biden, saying there’s “Nothing to congratulate him about.”
If Johnson holds true to form he may be one of the last Republican officials to concede that a democratic election has been conducted fairly and his side lost. It’s remarkable to see the transformation of Johnson, who ran as a businessman concerned about the federal deficit and was consumed by the issue in his early years. He has gradually transformed into a collector of crackpot theories and conspiracies and one of the strangest senators serving today.
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