In an interview on conservative talk radio, Sen. Ron Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters, said he didn’t feel threatened by rioters violently storming the Capitol. Instead, he said, he might have been scared if the participants were Black Lives Matter or Antifa supporters — a comment with strong racial overtones.
“Even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn’t concerned,” Johnson (R-Wis.) said in an interview on conservative radio host Joe Pag’s show Thursday.
"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," Johnson said.
In the past, Republicans have sought to equate the largely white crowd of insurrectionists with multiracial crowds protesting police brutality against Black Americans over the summer.
New evidence from federal prosecutors shows there was a contingent of white supremacists among the rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as extremist militia and paramilitary groups. The insurrection left several people dead and hundreds of people have been charged in connection to the events of Jan. 6.
Johnson’s comments sparked outrage from Democratic lawmakers.
Rep. Mark Pocan, who is from Johnson’s state of Wisconsin, laid into Johnson in a tweet Saturday morning, saying the comments were "seriously embarrassing to our state."
"We’ve moved from just plain old fringe, extremist rants to fringe extremist and racist rants," Pocan said.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) called Johnson’s comments "stunning" on MSNBC Saturday morning, saying that the violent mob showed that "white supremacy is a threat to every American life and to our democracy."
"Damning commentary, but certainly not surprising," Pressley said.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) questioned Johnson’s apparent lack of fear in a tweet Friday.
"I reviewed many of the videos and statements we submitted during the Impeachment trial. The mob murdered a police officer and injured 140 other officers," Lieu wrote. "They would have hurt you if they got their hands on you. That’s why Senators hid that day. Remember?"
Johnson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In the interview, Johnson also falsely claimed the armed insurrection was not an armed insurrection.
Law enforcement authorities have said they found guns and bombs on rioters. Rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” erected a noose, carried zip ties and among other things, some are facing weapons charges related to the insurrection, including assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon.
Johnson also has pushed the conspiracy theory that outside provocateurs were part of the riots, a claim Trump backers have often made.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that there is "no evidence" Antifa had any role in the insurrection.