From COVID conspiracy theories to touting the Big Lie, Johnson doubled down on dishonesty in 2021.
It’d be fair to say that US Sen. Ron Johnson has a problem with the truth—or maybe a habit for collecting untruths?
Over the years, he’s told his share of whoppers, but in 2021 the 66-year-old Oshkosh Republican doubled down on deception, starting out the year with lies about the 2020 presidential election and wrapping up the year claiming that COVID-19 can be killed with mouthwash.
Here’s a look at some of Johnson’s biggest lies of the year:
“There’s so many irregularities” with the 2020 election — Jan. 4, 2021
Continuing his efforts to sow doubt in the 2020 presidential election and President Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump, Johnson joined with several other Republican US Senators to urge that a commission conduct an emergency audit of the 2020 election returns, citing “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud.” Johnson later wrote on his own website that “there were so many irregularities” in the election and “so many allegations “ that there needed to be a “full investigation.” Federal agencies, state election officials, and technology experts have all said the election was among the most secure in American history.
On-again, off-again objections to certifying the 2020 election — Jan. 6, 2021
In mid-December as Congress was preparing to certify the Electoral College votes, cementing Biden’s election, Johnson said he had no plans to object to the results which were slated to be tallied on Jan. 6. On Jan. 2, however, he joined other Republicans in saying they’d object to the results, despite no evidence emerging that points to rampant fraud. After the Jan. 6 US Capitol insurrection, Johnson flip-flopped again and ended up not objecting to the certification.
The Jan. 6 Capitol riot “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection,” even though it was an armed insurrection — Feb. 15, 2021
A month after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol, resulting in the death of five people, including a US Capitol Police officer, Johnson said the riots didn’t seem like an “armed insurrection.” In fact, many of the rioters were armed, and at least three faced charges for allegedly bringing guns inside the Capitol. NBC News also reported “a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition had been found on seven people who were arrested before and after the Capitol riot.”
There have been thousands of deaths associated with COVID-19 Vaccines — May 6, 2021
In a May 6 interview with conservative radio host Vicki McKenna, Johnson suggested that there have been “over 3,000 deaths” connected to COVID-19 vaccinations.. According to a report from CNN, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has found no causal link between the vaccines and these deaths.”
Wrongly touting the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin in fighting COVID-19 — June 11, 2021
YouTube suspended Johnson from uploading videos for one week after he shared a clip in which he touted the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin drug in fighting COVID-19. He’s made the claim numerous times. Several studies have found hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19. And in August, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention issued an emergency alert noting that cases of misuse of ivermectin —a livestock deworming medication—were increasing. As of August, 17 people in Wisconsin alone had been treated for ivermectin poisoning.
Claiming in October that there was still not a vaccine approved for use by the FDA — Oct. 4, 2021
Continuing his COVID-19 misinformation campaign, Johnson claimed in early October that the US still did not have a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, despite the fact the agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shots for full use on Aug. 23. The FDA had granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech in December 2020.
Vaccines could be “quite unsafe” for pilots, based on a 0.01% chance side effect — Oct. 6, 2021
Johnson continued to stoke COVID vaccination fears this fall, claiming that the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement could threaten the health of US airline pilots. Johnson claimed that rare cases of serious myocarditis, or blood clots, that have been cited as side effects in a statistically insignificant number of vaccinated people could imperil the lives of the pilots and those aboard the planes they are piloting.
Unvaccinated people are being put “basically into internment camps” — Dec. 8. 2021
Capping off a long year of conspiracy theories, Johnson claimed just this month that people who don’t get vaccinated were “basically being put into internment camps.” Johnson’s office told Politifact he was referring to a 14-day quarantine facility in which Australian travelers are required to stay. But internment camps, such as those used against Japanese Americans during World War II, are for political prisoners and mass detainment—not medical quarantine.
Mouthwash can kill COVID-19 Germs — Dec. 8, 2021
Johnson then managed to trot out, if not his most offensive COVID-19 falsehood (see above), his most absurd. In a town hall event, audio of which was published by Heartland Signal, Johnson speciously claimed people could kill COVID germs with a swish or two of mouthwash.
“By the way, standard gargle—mouthwash—has been proven to kill the coronavirus. If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?” he said. Listerine, one of the largest mouthwash brands, says on its own website that it “is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label,” adding that “no evidence-based clinical conclusions can be drawn” about its efficacy in fighting COVID-19.