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Downplaying Jan. 6 riot, Ron Johnson won't quit while he's behind

Johnson is now arguing that there was "no violence" in the Senate on Jan. 6. There is no scenario in which that makes sense.
Image: Senators Hold Press Availability After Weekly Policy Luncheons
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wi., speaks to members of the media as he arrives for the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on June 30, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images file

For a politician who claims people are trying to "silence" him, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sure does talk a lot about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But as this CNN report makes clear, every time the Wisconsin Republican shares his bizarre ideas about the deadly violence, he makes matters worse.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson falsely claimed there was no violence on the Senate side of the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, the latest in his continued attempts to downplay the severity of the attack. Johnson described the events of January 6 to a group of conservative Wisconsin residents at a local political event on Saturday and falsely stated the rioters were more active on the House side of the Capitol than the Senate side.

"There was no violence on the Senate side, in terms of the chamber," Johnson argued in his public remarks over the weekend.

There is no scenario in which this makes sense. As CNN's report added, "Security cameras and videos from witnesses showed insurrectionists broke windows on the Senate side of the Capitol and stormed through the halls near the Senate chamber shortly after. One video showed Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman confronting protesters just outside the Senate chamber and leading them away from the room while senators were sheltering in place inside."

Part of the problem, of course, is Johnson's recent rhetorical pattern related to the deadly riot. It was 10 days ago, for example, when the Republican senator praised the rioters' patriotism and boasted that he was never concerned for his safety on Jan. 6 -- though he added he would've felt differently if the mob was made up of Black Lives Matter protesters.

That came on the heels of Johnson appearing at a Senate hearing, reading an item from a right-wing blog, and peddling the ridiculous idea that the pro-Trump forces that launched the attack on the Capitol were secretly made up of "fake Trump protesters."

Before that, the Wisconsinite falsely argued that armed insurrectionists may not have actually been armed, reality notwithstanding.

The point was hardly subtle: Johnson appears desperate to convince people that the most violent attack on our Capitol in two centuries just wasn't that important.

But there's an even larger context to the GOP senator's political antics. The New York Times published an analysis yesterday that identified Johnson as "the Republican Party's foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation" now that Donald Trump is largely absent from the public stage. After highlighting quite a few examples of the senator serving as "an all-access purveyor of misinformation on serious issues," the analysis added:

His 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.

Johnson wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, which ran with a headline that read, "I Won't Be Silenced by the Left." In reality, it's clear that no one is trying to shut down the senator's right to peddle nonsense as he pleases, but it's equally clear that everyone would benefit if Johnson enjoyed a little quiet time.