On January 6, former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him prompted a mob of pro-Trump extremists to storm the United States Capitol in a deadly failed insurrection.
The Trump rioters' actions led to the deaths of five people. They destroyed property, smeared excrement across the walls, and endangered the lives of every lawmaker in Congress—all in hopes of upending the joint session to certify now-President Joe Biden's victory.
The vast majority of Republican lawmakers have scrambled to rationalize the rioters' actions that day, and few have done more baffling feats of ideological contortion than Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Everywhere from Fox News to Senate hearings, Johnson has amplified the delusional conspiracy theory that the rioters were secretly antifa, and staged the riot to make Trump look bad. As hundreds of arrests and the rioters' own livestreams on social media have revealed, these acts were committed by Trump supporters.
In a recent interview, Johnson acknowledged that the rioters were fans of the 45th President—but that they were just people who loved the country. The Senator then said he would've feared for his life if the failed insurrectionists had been with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Blatant racism from @RonJohnsonWI here. He says he wasn’t worried on 1/6 because the majority-white insurrectionist… https://t.co/UT0F4ATdP0— American Bridge 21st Century (@American Bridge 21st Century) 1615571909.0
Now, had the tables been turned, Joe, and this'll get me in trouble—had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election, and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned."
The historic uprisings against racist police brutality the nation saw this summer were overwhelmingly peaceful, despite hysterical coverage from right wing news outlets. What's more, none of these protests directly threatened the lives of lawmakers in hopes of overturning a presidential election.
After widespread backlash, Johnson is now insisting that his comments weren't about race at all.
Describing his comments as "innocent" and "non-racial," the Senator said:
"There was nothing racial about my comments, nothing whatsoever. This isn't about race, this is about riots."
He went on to write a Wall Street Journal op-ed insisting that he wouldn't be "silenced" by the left.
People weren't buying it.
I’m tired of my tax dollars paying racists like Ron Johnson.— Joshua Ratliff (@Joshua Ratliff) 1615899552.0
Racist Ron Johnson, you have made yourself known how racist you are. A laughing stock you have made yourself… https://t.co/Sac7a6OTxS— Ikechukwu Okpokiri (@Ikechukwu Okpokiri) 1615892041.0
@SenRonJohnson Deflecting. Stay on topic Ron. Specifically, why weren’t you worried about the January 6th riot? I’… https://t.co/LZZ8ZvIXTQ— justme MSE 🇺🇸🐕🐇 (@justme MSE 🇺🇸🐕🐇) 1615865207.0
@SenRonJohnson Also, our protests were against police brutality. Your protest was to overthrow the government. ¯\… https://t.co/QqjGUIAqTL— Jedi, Interrupted 🏳️🌈 (@Jedi, Interrupted 🏳️🌈) 1615865027.0
His attempts at damage control generated a host of reactions putting him and his party through the wringer.
Republicans like Ron Johnson saying racist things is nothing new-- what is different is that there are no Republica… https://t.co/cjTkNqk7W8— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@(((DeanObeidallah)))) 1615899395.0
Question: If Ron Johnson didn't know his comment were racists why did he said "this is going to get me in trouble"… https://t.co/0S62SU79IK— Covie (@Covie) 1615860870.0
RON JOHNSON: It was fake Trump supporters! RON JOHNSON: It was ANTIFA! RON JOHNSON: It was just Americans who love… https://t.co/5Ys56ux8We— Mr. Newberger (@Mr. Newberger) 1615898940.0
Let's be very clear. Until the Republicans stand up against a lying racist like Ron Johnson, they give license to… https://t.co/GCkueGzUGb— American Veteran (@American Veteran) 1615874784.0
In addition to the hundreds of arrests made in the fallout of the riots, the FBI is also investigating the communications of members of Congress leading up to that day as well.