Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Monday defended comments he made last week about Black Lives Matter protestors, asserting that there was “nothing racial” about his suggestion that he would have reason to fear if the Capitol rioters had been associated with the racial justice movement or Antifa.
Johnson had faced backlash over the weekend for suggesting during a “Joe Pags Show” radio interview on Thursday that he had not feared for his safety when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, saying the rioters who broke through barricades and stormed the building in a violent episode that left five people, including a Capitol police officer, dead were largely “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement.”
“Now, had the tables been turned — Joe, this could 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,” he continued.
Johnson had also previously advanced the falsehood that professional provocateurs staged by the left had been mixed among the mob at the Capitol.
“This isn’t about race, this is about riots,” Johnson told reporters on Monday. “I have been attacked and criticized because I pushed back on the narrative that there were thousands of armed insurrectionists, and that’s just a small part of the 74 million Americans that voted for President Trump that also need to be suspect of being potential domestic terrorists or also potentially armed insurrectionists. This is a false narrative, and so the few of us that push back on that we get mercilessly attacked.”
During the radio show appearance on Thursday, Johnson and conservative radio host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo had taken turns bashing protestors associated with a movement for racial justice.
“Antifa and Black Lives Matter clearly are violent when they show up somewhere,” Pagliarulo said at the time.
But on Monday Johnson repeatedly declared that his statements about BLM and Antifa protestors had little to do with race.
“I wasn’t surprised, but it’s still pretty shocking that they would take what I consider a completely innocuous comment and turn it into you know, use the race card on me,” Johnson said.
The Wisconsin lawmaker further asserted that his comments last week were not targeted at Black protesters in particular because many Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been white.
“If you look at the protesters, the rioters, they’re white. A lot of them are white, especially antifa,” Johnson said.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed further defending his comments Johnson sought to create further distance between his comments and race, taking aim instead at “radical leftism.”
“This isn’t about race. It’s about riots. The rioters who burned Kenosha weren’t of any one ethnicity; they were united by their radical leftism,” he wrote. “Their politics, together with their taste for violence—so different from the Trump supporters I know personally or the Trump rallies we all saw carried out peacefully—should concern us.”