Johnson 2017
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to the media Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Madison. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

Republican senator blasts “woke doctors” and expresses openness to a conspiracy theory about the COVID vaccine and AIDS.

Republican US Sen. Ron Johnson is at it again, telling a coalition of anti-vaccine individuals that he’s in a “guerrilla war” against doctors and the medical establishment and suggesting that the dangerous lie that the coronavirus vaccines might be a way to intentionally give people AIDS “may be true.”

Appearing on a Sunday video panel held by the group “Doctors for COVID Ethics”—which spread the outrageous lie that vaccine requirements violate the Nuremberg code—Johnson attacked “woke doctors” who “don’t have the courage and compassion to practice medicine.” 

Johnson accused these doctors of ignoring supposed injuries from COVID-19 vaccines, which he claims are common, but which in reality, are rare and almost always mild.

“They don’t want to admit that the vaccine they were pushing on their patients are injuring them, potentially killing them,” Johnson told those on the call, which reportedly consisted of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and physicists. “They just follow orders. They’re happy to practice protocol, regardless of whether their patients are just dropping dead from lack of treatment or under treatment.”

The only way to defeat and reform this medical establishment, Johnson said, was “if enough doctors come forward and admit the vaccine has created these injuries.”

“I need every guerrilla fighting this guerrilla war right now,” he said. “Don’t get out ahead of what the public is willing to accept as truth.”

Johnson also expressed openness to the conspiracy theory that falsely claims the vaccine causes AIDS and that government regulators approved it anyway. During the video conference, Johnson was being interviewed by Todd Callender, an anti-vaccine lawyer who expressed the lie about the US Food and Drug Administration. 

“You’ve got more than a hundred doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. They purposefully gave people AIDS. They knew this,” Calendar claimed, adding that criminal charges should be brought against those responsible for approving and promoting the vaccines.

Johnson responded by saying Calendar’s claims may be true, but that anti-vaccine activists needed to persuade more of the public before trying to charge anyone.

“Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That’s the narrative, that’s what the vast majority of the public accepts,” Johnson said. “So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open to ‘woah, these vaccine injuries are real, why?’ You’ve got to do it step by step, you can’t leap to crimes against humanity, you can’t leap to another Nuremberg trial.” 

In reality, the COVID-19 vaccines have proven highly effective in preventing severe disease and death, though vaccine-induced immunity has been shown to wane over time.

Johnson later clarified his remarks, tweeting Tuesday: “I’ve never stated nor do I believe that the COVID vaccine causes HIV.” He also attacked the media for “attempting to defame” him and distort his words. 

Still, Johnson’s comments caused backlash among some in the medical community, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

“If he had a medical license these would be grounds for malpractice,” Patrick Remington, a professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and a former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Sentinel. “But since he’s not trained in medicine, he should stay in his lane and focus on things he knows about.”

This isn’t the first time Johnson has hopped into the debate over public health. Johnson—who got rich working for his wife’s family’s plastics company and has no medical background—has spread conspiracy theories about COVID vaccines, suggested that gargling mouthwash could be an effective treatment for COVID, and embraced the use of the veterinary drug ivermectin—a drug that has been shown to have nobenefit for patients with COVID. He has also amplified stories of those who’ve suffered rare, adverse reactions to the vaccine to suggest widespread disease as a result.