Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has come under fire recently for saying that the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th didn't scare him, but he would have been scared if the rioters were Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters. Of course, that is a blatantly racist statement.
That incident led Trip Gabriel and Reid Epstein to review Johnson's past, demonstrating that the senator has a long history of "assaulting the truth." In their exposé, they noted many instances of Johnson engaging in disinformation. But they left out a few. So here's a definitive list of the conspiracy theories promoted by Johnson - starting from the most recent and going back to his first campaign in 2010.
- Claimed the January 6th rioters were “agent provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters”
- Held a hearing elevating Trump's 2020 claims of election fraud
- Promoted hydroxychloroquine and refuses to say that the vaccines are safe
- Spent months as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee seeking evidence that Biden had tried to pressure Ukrainian officials to aid his son Hunter, which an Intelligence Community report released on Monday said was misinformation that was spread by Russia
- Turned a joke Lisa Page texted to Peter Strzok into an accusation that FBI agents were having secret off-site meetings to plot the destruction of Trump's presidency
- Issued a report, wrote an op-ed, and held a hearing to make the unconscionable claim that Medicaid is responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic
- During a hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, lectured MIT physicist Ernest Moniz on electro-magnetic pulse weapons
- Said that ISIS militants infecting themselves with Ebola and then coming to the U.S. posed a "real and present danger"
- During a radio interview, said "I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change...It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time"
- In that same interview, said "There’s a reason Greenland was called Greenland. It was actually green at one point in time”
- Wrote an op-ed suggesting that his adult daughter, who was born with a heart defect, would have died had the Affordable Care Act been in place at the time
If Johnson and others like him win, they seem less interested in plunging into specific legislation and more inclined to wage a philosophical messaging war to change the GOP and the nature of governance. Asked what innovative ideas he might push in office, Johnson didn't talk of tax reform or private Social Security accounts, or of anything a conventional senator might do. Instead, he committed himself to a "re-education of America."
In that way, Johnson was a bit ahead of his time in a party that is now more invested in "owning the libs" than actually governing.
To “own the libs” does not require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism. And its pop-cultural roots and clipped snarkiness are perfectly aligned with a party that sees pouring fuel on the culture wars’ fire as its best shot at surviving an era of Democratic control.
As is often the case, GOP claims that "libs" plan to set up "re-education camps" to deprogram Republican Trump supporters is simply another case of projection. Senator Johnson was clear from the get-go that his plan was to "re-educate America" by promoting conspiracy theories. Whether or not he actually believes the nonsense he spouts is open for speculation.