MADISON, Wis. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Saturday that America is making progress on racism but liberals feel it's not good enough and they want to impose their agenda on everyone else.
Johnson made the remarks at the state Republican convention at a Wisconsin Dells resort. He took to the stage to Guns N' Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” and roaring applause. He spent most of his speech bashing liberals, saying they've grown angrier and angrier over the last decade.
“For some reason their leaders are not really satisfied with what America represents,” Johnson said. “America’s not perfect. We have that original sin from slavery. But we’ve made progress. We’ve continuously improved. That’s not good enough for the left. They’ve got to impose everything they want on the rest of us. We just want to be left alone."
Johnson has taken criticism in recent months for advocating for alternative treatments for COVID-19 in lieu of vaccines. This month, YouTube blocked him from uploading videos for a week because he violated the company's COVID-19 misinformation policies. He has scheduled a news conference Monday in Milwaukee to bring together people who had adverse reactions to the vaccine.
His speech at a Juneteenth Day celebration in Milwaukee last week was drowned out by a chorus of boos. Johnson last year blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. In the days leading up to his speech he said it seems strange to have taxpayers fund time off for federal employees to celebrate the end of slavery.
Johnson didn't mention vaccines during his speech but said the media distorted what happened at the Juneteenth celebration, saying only a “nasty little small group of people” booed.
Johnson has said he hasn’t decided whether to seek a third term in 2022 but that former President Donald Trump has encouraged him to run. Johnson has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.
Democrats have targeted him for defeat. Five candidates have announced to run against Johnson next year.
Delegates chanted “six more years” as Johnson arrived on stage Saturday. He shrugged the chants off but later in his speech said he's “exhausted” by all the division in the country.
Before Johnson took the stage Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told delegates he has selected former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead an investigation into what Vos calls “voting irregularities” last fall.
Vos said last month that he would hire three retired police officers for the review. The Associated Press obtained contracts that show investigators will be paid $9,600 each over three months.
Gableman told delegates that he used his position on the Supreme Court to "fight evil" on their behalf and he’ll fight for them to get to the bottom of what happened during the 2020 election.
Gableman served one term as a conservative-leaning justice from 2008 to 2018. He decided not to run for reelection.
Vos made the announcement a day after former President Donald Trump issued a statement saying Vos and other Republican legislative leaders were trying to cover up election fraud.
“They are actively trying to prevent a Forensic Audit of the election results, especially those which took place in Milwaukee, one of the most corrupt election locales in the country,” the statement said. “Don’t fall for their lies! These REPUBLICAN 'leaders' need to step up and support the people who elected them by providing them a full forensic investigation. If they don’t, I have little doubt that they will be primaried and quickly run out of office.”
No evidence has surfaced supporting any Republican claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections in Wisconsin or any other state.
Wisconsin state Senate President Chris Kapenga, whom Trump named in the statement, sent a letter back to the former president Saturday pointing out that the Legislature's audit bureau also is reviewing the election. He called Trump's statement misleading and told him that he owes him a round of golf at a club of Trump's choice.
“This leads me back to your press release. It is false, and I don’t appreciate it being done before calling me and finding out the truth," Kapenga said. “This is what both of us have fought against.”
Johnson told reporters after his speech that he thought state lawmakers were doing a good job and he didn't think Trump's statement was much of a threat, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He said he was encouraged that Vos has picked Gableman to oversee his investigation.
Trump surprised delegates with a video message, according to reports from the Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times. He praised Wisconsin Republicans and continued to assert he won the state in 2020.
That isn’t true. President Joe Biden defeated Trump by 20,000 votes to win Wisconsin.
Ben Wikler, chairman of the state Democratic Party, issued a statement late Saturday afternoon thanking Republicans for what he called “a day-long informercial for voting against the GOP.”
“What we saw at this weekend's convention," he said, “demonstrates their refusal to focus on the issues that actually matter to working Wisconsin families, and their obsession with rigging the rules to benefit themselves.”
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