Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Ron Johnson More Trumpian Than Trump?

Wisconsin’s senior senator has become one of America’s leading crackpots.

By - Nov 24th, 2020 03:55 pm
Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (

Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / (CC BY-SA)

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. 

Yet one man is even more resistant to science than Trump: Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson. The state’s senior senator has been pushing this unproven remedy since April, when he sent a letter to the president urging he take action on this miracle drug by removing restrictions on its use by the Food and Drug Administration and issuing an executive order overriding any orders by governors or state medical and pharmacy boards regarding usage of the drug.

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.)” 

There was one medical expert invited to the hearing by a Democratic senator: Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. But he faced a hostile reaction. “In the hearing, I was called “reckless” because I pointed to facts that could prevent people from getting this treatment,” he wrote in an Op Ed for the New York Times. “The evidence itself, they seemed to be arguing, was the misinformation.”

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.

Johnson has also been the most fervent champion of Trump’s debunked theory that Joe Biden, through his son Hunter, was somehow involved in corruption in the Ukraine. Johnson again used his Senate Committee to investigate it and came up with nothing. It was slammed by the media as a “hatchet job” with “no evidence” presented and “a rehashing of unproven allegations.” Even before the report was released Republican Senator Mitt Romney had condemned the inquiry, calling it “a political exercise” and noting that “it’s not the legitimate role of government or Congress, or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.”

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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11 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Ron Johnson More Trumpian Than Trump?”

  1. Thomas Martinsen says:

    R.J. needs to go away. He has no business pretending to be a U.S. Senator. He ignores science and embraces conspiracy theories,

  2. mr_cox says:

    Empty Suit Johnson has never made moves not intended to line his own pockets. That’s what the empty suit is for! In that respect, he and Trump are made for each other. Soulless grifters to the bitter end.

  3. B says:

    I wonder if he or a family member has a financial stake in HCQ? I don’t know why else he would keep promoting it.

  4. kmurphy724 says:

    Ron Johnson reminds me of another Wisconsin Senator who lost his way, believing in his own made up “facts,” motivated by personal animus, and overcome by the hubris that preoccupies little men who are thrust upon a stage they are not able to manage.

  5. Mingus says:

    Ron Johnson was not right-wing goofy when he first started as a Senator. His true colors came out when he promoted the tragedy at Benghazi as somehow the direct fault of Hilary Clinton. It is puzzling as to what he has to gain being a Trump warrior.

  6. siegeronsongs says:

    Gotta love this guy… no, actually you don’t. Thanks for embarrassing Wisconsin on a daily basis, Ron!

  7. frank a schneiger says:

    Ron Johnson is an unusual case, unusual in a bad and dangerous sense. The Senate is a hotbed of arrogance, cynicism, and money-driven corruption. It would be hard in everyday life to find people more arrogant, cynical or money driven than the two leaders, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.

    Ron Johnson is all of those things, but he is also something else that sets him apart from most of his colleagues. He is a stupid person, unusual in a body with a fair number of smart, if bad, people. If you look at the entire Senate, there are only three senators who are obviously stupid. In convenient alphabetical order, they are Hyde-Smith (Mississippi), Inhofe (Oklahoma) and Wisconsin’s own Ron Johnson. It is a sign of the decay and irresponsibility of the Republican Party that they have put Johnson in charge of an important committee.

    Johnson’s stupidity is non-ideological, except that the belief in the wisdom of “the businessman” is an ideology. Because he has no ideology, moral compass or values, he is the perfect sycophant for someone like Trump. What makes him so dangerous is his stupidity. Consider the following quote from Dietrich Boenhoffer, written from a Nazi prison:

    “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One can protest against evil. It can be exposed….Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical- and when facts are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all of this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied, and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack….”

    It is our misfortune that someone like Johnson has been inserted into a powerful position in a time of crisis. His stupidity and arrogance, combined with unexamined racism, have led him to make his comment that “the others” should “take one for the team” by getting sick and dying to keep the economy open during the pandemic. It is a certainty that his behavior, looking back, will be seen as even more egregious, destructive and stupid than it appears now.

    It is also a terrible omen that groups in Wisconsin and elsewhere continue to share Johnson’s view as the pandemic rages. Here is another useful quote, that of the film director Claude Chabrol who said, “Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence. Intelligence has its limits, while stupidity has none.” He might have added, with often terrible consequences.

  8. julia o'connor says:

    It’s about to get more competitive as Tommy Tuberville arrives.

  9. frank a schneiger says:

    Julia: Yikes! I forgot about him. This brings back memories of that big question: Who’s your favorite Menendez brother?

  10. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Ron Johnson has known about Russian psyops and other online scumminess for 4+ years, and he owes his re-election to it. Combine that with his (ahem) “business interests” overseas, and this guy is scared of having to testify about what he’s been covering up.

    I know it’s not common occurrence to have a Senator be called to testify before the House, but in this lowlife’s case, it is warranted and must be done. And all Dems in Wisconsin need to be constantly reminding the rest of the state of all of the lies he has spread, and how he did NOTHING about the Postal Service or COVID as both were being screwed up by TrumpWorld.

  11. George Wagner says:

    Not to forget: Even before his 2010 election, Johnson said global warming was caused by sun spots.

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