Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

The Hoax Master of Wisconsin

Ron Johnson has become a national leader in hoaxes and conspiracy theories.

By - Feb 17th, 2021 04:27 pm
Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0

What the hell has happened to Ron Johnson?

He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 as a Republican “citizen legislator,” a real-life version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the political neophyte who would bring purity to politics. His “first task is to save our nation from bankruptcy,” he soberly explained. America’s freedom is threatened by “unsustainable levels of spending and debt.”  

He was a businessman who would bring fiscal discipline to Washington. “Washington D.C. doesn’t have an ideology problem; it has a math problem,” he declared. Johnson became Washington’s premier deficit scold, with endless charts on America’s debt and a Power-Point presentation he foisted on members of both parties. “Some Republican leaders reported hearing the same presentation on the subjects—delivered via PowerPoint—three times,” as a story in the Atlantic reported.

In short, a harmless wind bag obsessed with the debt. There are far worst sorts to be found in Congress.

But something happened after Johnson was reelected and Donald Trump took over the presidency. The man for whom debt was like a disease supported a massive tax giveaway to corporations and wealthy taxpayers that would drive the deficit to levels unseen since just after the massive spending on World War II. But he didn’t just jettison his stated reason for seeking office — to trim the debt. He also obliterated his “citizen legislator” image, making sure the tax bill added a benefit for “pass-through” or limited liability companies that would personally benefit him.

The ideologue who promised he had “the backbone” needed to help members of Congress develop a spine turned out to have no principles at all. And since then he has, year by year, turned into a peddler of countless hoaxes and conspiracy theories. He colluded with a disgraced Ukrainian official to spread disinformation on Joe Biden, promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to combat COVID-19 though it was proven to have no benefits and perhaps harm those who took it, and repeatedly claimed with no evidence there were irregularities in 2020 election.

Little more than a week ago he suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was somehow responsible for the January 6 Capitol riot. The claim made no sense. Why would Pelosi want to allow a riot by people who were threatening her life? In fact, the House Speaker has no oversight role over the Capitol police, as Forbes noted.

But marshaling facts and logic to respond to Johnson’s conspiracy mongering ends up giving it far more dignity than it deserves. Johnson offered no evidence, admitted he had none and merely said he was “suspicious” of “what the speaker knew and when she knew it.” In short, pure demagoguery.

This week Johnson had a new lie to peddle, denying the Capitol riot was violent. On Monday he went on WISN radio and said this: “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me… When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask: How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”

Johnson added, “If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.”

These comments are part of “the emerging hoax-ification of the Capitol riot,” as a column by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake noted, and Johnson is a key leader.

“There are myriad problems with all of these claims, the biggest being that five people died, including a police officer, and that two more officers have taken their own lives since then. Other police officers were so traumatized that they have reportedly contemplated self-harm, with one turning in her gun. Guns, bombs and stun guns were seized from members of the mob, while other rioters used wrenches, clubs and flagpoles as weapons. An officer has said that police “had been seizing guns all day,” Blake wrote.

As the Post reported, “Fourteen people face charges related to bringing weapons to the riots… including an Alabama man who allegedly had an arsenal in his truck and a Maryland man who police say stormed the Capitol with a gun, multiple magazines and a bulletproof vest. Federal prosecutors have also accused extremist groups of coordinating the deadly attack.”

“What’s particularly stunning about Johnson’s comments is that they came after he served as a juror in a trial in which the House impeachment managers played extensive video of the Capitol riot,” Blake noted. “He had just borne witness to some of the ugliest scenes for many hours.”

In short, Johnson knows what he is saying is untrue. But he’s become part of a small choir of Republican demagogues who will make any claim to support Donald Trump, in this case trying to make the insurrection he promoted look like a silly little fracas by kooks wearing funny hats. Johnson has drunk the Trump Kool-Aid and transformed himself from a citizen legislator to a shameless peddler of conspiracy theories. He is an embarrassment to Wisconsin.

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2 thoughts on “Back in the News: The Hoax Master of Wisconsin”

  1. says:

    Yep, walking in Joe McCarthy’s shoes. I used to ask my folks how McCarthy got away with his craziness. Now, I know.This crackpot ‘s got to go in 2022!

  2. Douglas Johnson says:

    “If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.” Sen. Johnson you just called the majority of people who participated in this assault and the majority of people who support you ‘idiots’. You clearly are either a reincarnation of Sen. Joe McCarthy or his acolyte.

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