Illustration by Morgaine Ford-Workman.
(Illustration by Morgaine Ford-Workman. Photos courtesy of Samer Ghani, Jonathon Sadowski, WLUK-TV, WOAI Radio)

Lt. Governor adds to a chorus of criticism against the senator. Rep. Grothman slammed for separate comments about Black Lives Matter.

Democrats continue pounding two Wisconsin Republicans as racists for incendiary comments made last week about Black Americans and a group protesting systemic racism and police violence.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes appeared on CNN Monday morning to slam Sen. Ron Johnson for telling a radio interviewer he did not fear the mob that was rioting at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, but would have feared a crowd composed of Black Lives Matter protesters.

“Maybe we should give the guy credit for saying the racist part out loud,” Barnes told CNN host John King. “He’s certainly done more than many of his colleagues have done in terms of being bold in that way. But the fact is Sen. Johnson represents a culture that inherently sees Black people as a threat, even though there was an officer that lost his life, there was a threat to hang Vice President Mike Pence. And maybe he wasn’t afraid because effectively Ron Johnson was a marshal of the insurrection, calling into doubt or calling into question the election results.”

In an interview Thursday with syndicated radio host Joe Pagliarulo, Johnson said of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory: “I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned.”

“Now, had the tables been turned, and Joe—this is going to 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, I might have been a little concerned,” Johnson said, using “antifa” to refer to far-left-leaning protesters known as anti-fascists who resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.

Five people died during the assault on the Capitol, including a police officer, and 140 officers were injured. More than 300 Trump supporters have been charged in the storming of the building, including members of far-right extremist groups.

The quip from Johnson, a white Republican, also sparked outrage from state Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee). 

“For him to say something as racist as that—it’s ridiculous,” said the legislator, who is Black. “It’s a totally racist comment, and the insult to injury is he didn’t mind saying it in the position that he holds because for some reason that’s just deemed as acceptable behavior for people who live in and are elected officials in this state.”

In a separate development, a member of Congress from the same east-central part of Wisconsin as Johnson is also being sharply criticized for saying the Black Lives Matter movement is anti-family.

During a debate last week in the US House of Representatives about pandemic relief, Grothman argued that expanding the earned income tax credit for single workers constitutes a penalty against married couples.

“I bring it up, because I know the strength that Black Lives Matter had in this last election. I know it’s a group that doesn’t like the old-fashioned family,” said Grothman.

Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) immediately condemned Grothman in a floor speech. “How dare you, how dare you say that Black Lives Matter, Black people do not understand old-fashioned families,” she said. “That is outrageous, that should be stricken down.”

Earlier: Email Reveals Political Motivations Behind WI Republicans Forming a Task Force Instead of Passing Police Reform Bills

Wearing a small green St. Patrick’s Day hat, US Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) responded in an interview with WLUK-TV by saying he was taking aim at language that once existed—but was removed six months ago—in a Black Lives Matter website referring to “disrupt[ing] the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

Supporters of Black Lives Matter, a movement formed to protest the widely disproportionately share of police shootings and violence against Blacks, say the language was about disrupting political activity that discriminates against non-traditional families, such as tax credits for married homeowners that leave out people who are single or in a same-sex relationship, or who rent their home.

Barnes believes Johnson’s comments were purposefully designed to be racially divisive.

“I think he wants a reward for his racism because, as we know, Donald Trump has gained in popularity because of racism,” Barnes continued. “And people aren’t — Republicans aren’t winning elections without racism these days across the United States of America. Ron Johnson is just trying to hold on.”

King first introduced the topic on CNN with a joke that Johnson “is in the news again because he’s talking again.” He called Johnson “a consistent source of misinformation and conspiracy about the January 6th insurrection.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.