Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2015. 
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Republican makes provocative comments about McCain’s brain cancer


It’s no secret that Republicans were disappointed when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and 48 Senate Democrats in derailing the GOP’s far-right health care plan two weeks ago. But just how far are some on the right prepared to go to express their dissatisfaction?

Politico notes one Senate Republican who broached a highly provocative subject.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who voted in favor of the GOP plan to repeal parts of Obamacare last month, suggested Tuesday that Sen. John McCain’s deciding vote against the proposal may have been related to his brain cancer.

“I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now, that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” Johnson said on the radio program “Chicago’s Morning Answer.”

Note, even the host of the radio show seemed surprised that Johnson went there, responding to the senator, “Really?” This would’ve been a great time for the far-right Wisconsinite to quickly walk back his comments, but that’s not quite what happened.

“Again, I-I-I don’t know exactly what – we really thought – and again I don’t want speak for any senator,” Johnson responded. “I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30, he voted no. So you have talk to John in terms what was on his mind.”

Of course, McCain and his office have already made it quite clear why the senator voted the way he did, and they didn’t seem especially pleased to hear Johnson argue that brain cancer “might have factored in.”

In a statement made available to NBC News, a McCain spokesperson called Johnson’s on-air comments “bizarre and deeply unfortunate.”

I’m going to assume that Johnson will issue a statement very soon, arguing that he was clumsy in his wording and didn’t mean to imply McCain’s vote was related to his illness. I’ll update this piece if/when that statement arrives.

Update:  That was quick. “I’m disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through,” Johnson said in a statement this afternoon. “I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone.”