Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Is Ron Johnson the New Trump?

The nation's new leader in peddling conspiracy theories. Is he planning a run for president?

By - Mar 22nd, 2021 03:30 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)

Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson made the front page, top of the fold, in the New York Times this morning, with the headline “Untruths Flow From Senator, Shaking Trust” and the subhead, “Conspiracies Spurred by Wisconsin’s Johnson.”

Calling Johnson “an all-access purveyor of misinformation on serious issues,” the Times story declared that the senator “has become the Republican Party’s foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation now that Donald Trump himself is banned from social media and largely avoiding appearances on cable television.”

Is Johnson the new Trump? Also in the news this morning was a brief item from Politico on new staff joining Johnson: “Vanessa Ambrosini and Alexa Henning, both Trump White House alums, are joining Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) office as senior communications advisers. Ambrosini most recently was deputy director of public affairs at the Commerce Department. Henning most recently was director of media affairs for the Trump campaign.”

If the goal is to replace Trump as the nation’s leading peddler of misinformation and conspiracy theories, why not hire the president’s former director of media affairs, who is an expert in that department.

And increasingly, that seems to be the goal for Johnson. In March alone, Johnson has made “at least 15 appearances on 11 different radio shows,” the Times noted. And Johnson has picked up the pace on Twitter, where he offered some 55 tweets to his 237,000 followers.

He was discussed on all the Sunday morning news shows yesterday, and has been a frequent topic of discussion on the influential Morning Joe show in the last week.

Johnson has become a national lightning rod, “remarkably adept at adopting the misinformation that increasingly animated Fox News commentators and right-wing talk radio,” the Times observes. Christian Schneider, a former Republican political operative and frequent defender of Johnson back when Schneider was a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, offered this view of the senator to the Times: “Through the years, as the party has morphed into a muscular ignorance, Q-Anon sect, he’s followed along with them.

Though he seems quite unbothered when his ignorance is exposed. Johnson, in an attempt to dispute global warming, offered a theory that Greenland got its name because it was once green before it became a land of glaciers. When the Times reporters noted that Greenland got its name from the explorer Erik the Red’s attempt to lure settlers to the ice-covered island,  Johnson responded: “I could be wrong there, but that’s always been my assumption that, at some point in time, those early explorers saw green…I have no idea.” Which is laughable, yes, but part of a pattern for Johnson, as it was for Trump.

Johnson’s “continuing assault on the truth, often under the guise of simply ‘asking questions’ about established facts, is helping to diminish confidence in American institutions at a perilous moment, when the health and economic well-being of the nation relies heavily on mass vaccinations, and when faith in democracy is shaken by right-wing falsehoods about voting,” the Times story notes.

Yes, Johnson has always made some questionable claims, but never so often or so aggressively. His most recent claim came on Saturday, about the U.S. Capitol riot, telling a group of conservative Republicans that “There was much more violence on the House side. There was no violence on the Senate side, in terms of the chamber.” In fact, Trump supporters stormed the chamber shortly after senators were evacuated.

Does Johnson see this embrace of Trump’s style as the way to get reelected in 2022? I’ve offered that theory. But the Times notes that Johnson “has raised just $590,000 in the past two years — a paltry sum for an incumbent senator.” And the Trump style may not help Johnson in once heavily Republican areas like Brookfield, which backed Trump by just nine percentage points in November, after voting for him by 20 points in 2016 and President George W. Bush by 39 points in 2004, the story notes.

There is another possibility, that Johnson is laying the groundwork for a run for president, something I’m told he flirted with during his first term as senator. If that’s the plan, you don’t want to run for reelection. as that might require you to moderate your views in order to run up the score in Republican counties like Waukesha and Ozaukee, where many voters deserted Trump in 2020. And it would require, should you get reelected Senator, to make some votes that might compromise your image when you enter the 2024 Republican primary.

But it you don’t run for reelection, you’re free to position yourself as the most Trump-like Republican in America, a businessman like Trump and now “target No. 1” of the radical left, as Johnson recently dubbed himself — and spend the next two years courting Fox, the conservative media and influential conservative groups. Hiring the Trump aides will be a big help with that and is a sign that Johnson has a much bigger goal than to be reelected senator

8 thoughts on “Back in the News: Is Ron Johnson the New Trump?”

  1. Swblackwood says:

    Nah, he’s too boring. Ron DeSantis is the new Trump. Also RoJo was not on Trump’s shortlist of Trumps who aren’t him.

  2. MilwMike1 says:

    Bwahahahahaha. Thanks Bruce, now I have to change my underwear. RoJo 4 President? Bwahahahahahahaha

  3. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Underestimate ignorant candidates for president at your peril. Remember Ron Reagan and George W. Bush.

  4. George Wagner says:

    In 2010 Johnson said he believed that global warming was caused by sun spots. That’s a nice alliterative name for him: Senator Sun Spots.

  5. mkwagner says:

    The tale of 2 senators, Johnson and Baldwin. Rojo makes the news by spewing racist memes and stoking baseless conspiracies. Baldwin quietly works for the people of Wisconsin.

    But here is the problem Bruce. You spend an inordinate amount of time covering RoJo’s nonsense, all of which ups his media presence (remember, there is no such thing as bad press.) When was the last time you wrote about Tammy Baldwin? You continue the media obsession with loud obnoxious ignorance that brought 45 to the White House. Stop it! What we need is less watchdog and more intelligent, fact-based reporting.

  6. Maryg says:

    We just woke up from a nightmare. Too soon for another one.

  7. Keith Schmitz says:

    Rojo is the Charles Atlas of “muscular ignorance.”

  8. ringo muldano says:

    Where’s Belski at to defend his beloved RoJo? What you thinkin’, top down on that lincoln? Spilling all over Dallas like an ink pen.

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