Milwaukee Newspaper Takes ‘Rare Step’ of Fact-Checking Ron Johnson Op-Ed with 19 Detailed Footnotes: ‘How About Telling the Truth?’

Sen. Ron Johnson

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Be careful what you wish for.

Sen. Ron Johnson learned that lesson on Tuesday when the Milwaukee newspaper that granted his request to publish an op-ed rebuttal to its call for his resignation had his piece brutally debunked — with annotated footnotes.

The 14-paragraph Milwauke Journal-Sentinel op-ed that went live online on Tuesday includes a long Editor’s Note preceding it and is chock full of 19 detailed footnotes explaining how his claims are misleading, untruthful and distort the Constitution.

Editor’s note: After the Editorial Board called on Sen. Ron Johnson to either resign or be expelled from office for his role in spreading disinformation about the presidential election, the senator asked for space to respond. We are providing him that courtesy today. We also are taking the rare step of footnoting Johnson’s commentary to provide additional context so that readers have a fuller understanding of the senator’s actions.

Johnson’s column was a response to the newspaper editorial board, who published a call for his immediate resignation a day after the violent Capitol siege, citing his “deceitful alliance” with the Trump conspiracies that fueled it. The Wisconsin senator had already drawn fire before the insurrection, having been mocked by former Sen. Claire McCaskill for demanding Attorney General Bill Barr prove election fraud didn’t happen and confronted by Meet the Press‘ Chuck Todd on the Sunday before the Capitol riot, who called out the Wisconsin senator’s planned objection to the Electoral College certification, pressing him if he’d be investigating 9/11 Truthers and moon landing conspiracists.

Calling the Journal-Sentinel‘s op-ed seeking his removal “unhinged and uninformed,” Johnson defended himself against a charge of “inciting violence and an act of domestic terrorism” in his column’s first paragraph.

But the paper wasted little time adding context, adding a footnote in Johnson’s very first paragraph, pointing out: “Senators and representatives cannot overturn the will of citizen voters by rejecting a state’s electoral votes.”

When Johnson noted he did not vote to sustain the objection of the electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona, the Journal-Sentinel pulled no punches in its fact-check: “Johnson’s role in spreading and amplifying lies about the election — including his threat to challenge the ceremonial counting of electoral votes in Congress — encouraged Trump supporters to believe the result could be overturned, and that helped lead to the tragedy at the Capitol.”

The op-ed continued apace, with Johnson offering his take and the editors slapping it down with context and pithy comebacks like “How about telling the truth?”

Johnson concludes by accusing the mainstream media of having “dropped all pretense of objectivity and can no longer be trusted. It’s well past time for the media to look in the mirror and acknowledge the role their bias has played in widening our national divide and exacerbating the problem.”

The Journal-Sentinel’s rebuttal shot back.

“This is a page right out of the Trump playbook,” it said. “Blame the “mainstream media” when you don’t have an answer. The Editorial Board will defend the right of the citizens to choose their elected officials — government of the people, by the people, for the people — even if Senator Johnson will not.”

After the newspaper’s dressing down of his op-ed, Johnson responded on Twitter, repeating his charge of “media bias.”

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