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Hoyer bashes Ron Johnson for 'racist statement'

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP House Democrats eye vote next week to form Jan. 6 commission MORE (D-Md.) on Tuesday teed off on Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE, accusing the Wisconsin Republican of advancing racist claims surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Johnson last week had said he was never concerned for his safety during the attack because the crowd of protestors in Washington that day — supporters of then-President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE who sought to reverse his election defeat — consisted of "people who love this country" and "would never do anything to break the law."

Johnson went on to say that he would have been more fearful if Trump had won the election and liberal protesters representing Black Lives Matter and antifa had marched on the Capitol instead.

"Let's face it, people didn't board up their storefronts in metropolitan areas in case Joe BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE won," Johnson said in an interview with the radio host Joe Pagliarulo.

Calling Jan. 6 a "day of infamy," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that Johnson's remarks were inherently racist and should concern Republicans of all stripes.

"The statement of Sen. Johnson the other day [was] a racist statement — a statement that ought to be deeply troubling to the Republican Party to have a member of the United States Senate, a Republican, reflect such prejudice, such simplification, which mirrored Donald Trump's dealing with immigrants," Hoyer said on a press call.

Hoyer's criticisms echo those of other Democrats, including Black lawmakers in Wisconsin, who are also accusing Johnson of adopting a racist double standard in fearing Black Lives Matter activists, but not the largely white crowd that stormed the Capitol.

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In an interview Monday with a Milwaukee radio station, Johnson rejected any allegation that his remarks were related to race.  

“It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with riots,” Johnson said. “I completely did not anticipate that anybody could interpret what I said as racist. It’s not.”

The attack of Jan. 6 came after months of Trump falsely insisting that he had defeated Joe Biden in November's election, only to have victory "stolen" by rampant voter fraud orchestrated by Democratic conspiracists.

No rampant fraud was uncovered in any state, all of which certified their election tallies, and scores of legal cases challenging the election results were shot down by courts across the country, including the Supreme Court.

Still, thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington on Jan. 6 to contest Congress's vote to formalize Biden's victory. In a speech that day at the White House Ellipse, Trump amplified the falsehood that the election was fraudulent, warning the crowd that “if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump also made several indirect threats to Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceCruz outspending other senators on Facebook ads: report Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories MORE, saying his vice president overseeing the ceremonial vote needed to “do the right thing” and overturn the election. He concluded his speech by urging his followers to march on the Capitol.    

The violent breach of the Capitol that followed found some rioters searching for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Job openings jump to record high of 8.1 million | Wyden opposes gas tax hike | Airlines feel fuel crunch Pelosi: House Democrats want to make child tax credit expansion permanent Pelosi announces change to House floor mask rules MORE (D-Calif.) and chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” The rampage left at least five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer and a protester who was shot by a second officer as she attempted to access the House chamber. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and face federal charges.

Johnson, in his initial interview with Joe Pagliarulo, said he condemns all violence, including that at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He then accused the news media of downplaying the violence that accompanied some of the national protests that followed last year's death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.  

"Those riots resulted in $1-$2 billion worth of property damage, and up to 26 people dead. But apparently those were righteous riots," Johnson said, knocking the notion that the Capitol protest was "not righteous."

Johnson also rejected the idea that the Capitol siege was an "armed insurrection," noting that no firearms were confiscated. And he amplified earlier comments that he never felt in danger of the violent mob.

"I'm also criticized because I've made the comment that on Jan. 6 I never felt threatened. Because I didn't," Johnson continued. "And mainly because I knew that even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law. And so I wasn't concerned.

"Now, had the tables been turned, and Joe — this is going to get me in trouble — had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned," he said.

Hoyer on Tuesday lamented that the divisions in the country have widened to such a remarkable degree that a violent mob, encouraged by the president, would attack Congress.

"This day of infamy did not come from Asia, it did not come from Germany, it did not come from the Middle East — it came from within," Hoyer said. "And one of the sad realities is how deeply divided, and how angry, and how much hate there is, by some towards others in this country."