Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson has emerged as one of the United States Senate’s most controversial, conspiracy-minded voices on matters of public health, vaccines, science, and the overall response to COVID-19 throughout the global pandemic.
Johnson’s criticism of life-saving vaccines and sharing of misinformation throughout the pandemic are well-documented. He was called out by fact checkers nationally as well as right here in Wisconsin. The Senator’s YouTube account was even suspended for spreading misinformation.
According to a new report issued by Congress, Johnson’s role in promoting misinformation was even more problematic than initially understood.
Johnson was not merely spouting misinformation about hydroxychloroquine on a whim. He was at the center of a scheme by close Trump advisors to pressure the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into authorizing treatments for COVID-19 that the agency knew were not effective in treating COVID.
The Senator, who has no formal medical training or background in viral infections, chose to side against the FDA’s career scientists and public health professionals by waging a pressure campaign against the agency.
It gets worse than that. Emails disclosed in the report indicate that political motivations were driving Johnson’s push.
According to an email, Johnson explained to then-President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that failure to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine would lead to a loss of political support for the President and Republicans.
Johnson’s decision to play fast and loose with facts in the midst of a global health crisis is likely among the reasons the Senator’s political support is in such dire straits just weeks before Wisconsin voters begin casting ballots in his re-election campaign.
It is hard to imagine that standing improving when the public learns Johnson wasn’t just wrong on the facts or about the science, but was instead playing politics.