Sen. Ron Johnson faced criticism after the Wisconsin Republican said he was not concerned about the violent mobs that raided the U.S. Capitol because Black Lives Matter activists were not among them.
Mr. Johnson made the remark in an interview Thursday on “The Joe Pags Show,” a radio program hosted by conservative commentator Joe Pagliarulo, sparking allegations of racism on social media after.
Speaking about the breach of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, Mr. Johnson said he “never felt threatened” partially because neither Black Lives Matter nor left-wing Antifa protesters were involved.
“I knew that 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,” Mr. Johnson told Mr. Pagliarulo.
“Now, had the tables been turned — and 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,” Mr. Johnson continued.
Members of Congress were forced to hide when the Capitol was stormed as both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate convened to count the electoral votes cast in November’s presidential contest.
The breach of the Capitol occurred soon after former President Trump spoke to supporters down the street during a speech in which he denied losing to his Democratic rival in the race, President Biden.
Several people died or were injured during the riot, and more than 300 have been charged so far with related crimes ranging from trespassing on Capitol grounds, to assaulting federal police officers.
Among the scores facing charges related to the riot are numerous open Trump supporters, a Trump-appointed U.S. State Department employee and several Republican activists and politicians, among others.
Several prominent Democrats politicians, pundits and others accordingly took issue with Mr. Johnson following his appearance on “The Joe Pags Show” for what a number interpreted to be a racist remark.
Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Ted Lieu of California were among Democrats who slammed the senator on the social media platform Twitter as clips of his interview were shared widely on the service.
“So let me get this straight @SenRonJohnson, armed white domestic terrorists attacking the nation’s Capitol are just ‘patriots,’ but Black people protesting for their lives are scary & violent?” Mr. Pocan asked in a Twitter post tagging the senator’s account. “Being unapologetically racist is not something to be proud of—you should be ashamed.”
“They would have hurt you if they got their hands on you,” Mr. Lieu said in a tweet to Mr. Johnson. “That’s why Senators hid that day. Remember?”
Others verified Twitter users ripped Mr. Johnson for the remark include TV personality Keith Olbermann, who called him a “dumb febrile racist,” and Pat Bagley, a political cartoonist who suggested the senator was talking like a Ku Klux Klan leader.
“Republicans are not even bothering to hide their racism,” tweeted filmmaker Rob Reiner.
“Deplorable,” tweeted actor George Takei.
A spokesperson for Mr. Johnson did not immediately respond to a message over the weekend seeking the senator’s reaction to the criticisms his comment spark.
Mr. Pagliarulo, on his part, denied the remark was racist.
“Guess what? BLM isn’t all Black people,” Mr. Pagliarulo said during an internet show Saturday. “In fact, it’s a very small percentage of Black people [who] even support BLM. And Antifa – I haven’t seen a Black Antifa person yet, to be honest with you. I mean, there might be some. But it generally speaking looks like a bunch of white kids, a bunch of privileged white kids.”
President Biden decisively won the November election and was ultimately inaugurated on Jan. 20, two weeks to the day since rioters swarmed the scene of his future swearing-in ceremony.