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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) speaks during a hearing on March 4, 2021. (Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images)

Why Is Ron Johnson Still in the US Senate?

There's a line where cluelessness gives way to deliberately dangerous political posturing, and Johnson crossed it last week when he crashed a clown car full of quacks into the public health debate.

Sen. Ron Johnson, the most notorious conspiracy theorist in the U.S. Senate, finally got something right.

The Republican from Oshkosh interrupted a panel discussion he'd organized Monday to amplify messages from vaccine skeptics with an announcement: "We've all been accused of spreading disinformation, and misinformation."

He has been accused of spreading disinformation and misinformation. And the accusations have stuck.

Truer words have never been spoken by the senator.

He has been accused of spreading disinformation and misinformation. And the accusations have stuck. Fact-checking sites have catalogued the corrections of his false statements about the coronavirus pandemic, and about the proper responses to it. In my new book, "Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers" (Verso), I devote a chapter to Johnson, who emerged during the initial stages of the pandemic as such a steadily unreliable source of information that U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, complained that "it is embarrassing to have American's most clueless Senator."

But there's a line where cluelessness gives way to deliberately dangerous political posturing, and Johnson crossed it last week when he crashed a clown car full of quacks into the public health debate. The crash site was a Capitol Hill hearing room where the senator presided over what the Committee to Protect Health Care aptly described as "a high-profile platform to perpetuate falsehoods about vaccines, unproven cures and evidence-based safety measures."

When Republicans lost control of the U.S. Senate after the 2020 election, Johnson had to surrender the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee—which he had made a go-to venue for fringe theorists of varying stripes. But losing the gavel has not stopped the Wisconsinite—who was recently called out by Listerine for suggesting that "standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus"—from peddling political snake oil.

Last week's hearing featured a parade of dismissed and discredited "experts" who frequently interrupted and contradicted one another, producing a cacophony of ranting and raving about "fraudulent data," "manipulated data" and "vaccine-enhanced diseases." Johnson added to the absurdity by reading an anecdote from southeast Asia into the record and then admitting, "I guess this isn't evidence that a death might be related to the vaccine ..."

At one point, the senator called on a witness who announced that people were "a thousand times more likely to die from a bicycle than from COVID," and concluded, "so I think it would be appropriate that the federal government ban all bicycles because they're certainly more likely to kill you than COVID."

At another point, when the discussion descended into chaos, Johnson threw his hands up in the air and announced, "It's difficult for the general public to understand because I don't know exactly."

What's really difficult to understand is why this charlatan is still in the United States Senate.


© 2021 The Capital Times

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