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Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT

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 (R-Wis.) is being compared by several conservatives to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), known for his communist witch hunt in the 1950s, according to a New York Times article published on Sunday.

The Republicans told the news outlet that Johnson’s promotion of false theories on the coronavirus, the COVID-19 vaccination efforts and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot remind them of Wisconsin’s infamous former senator, who in the 1940s and '50s publicly accused a number of government workers of being communists, leading to many losing their jobs. 

Former Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.), who retired from Congress this year, told the newspaper that “Wisconsin voters love mavericks.”

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“They really love mavericks — you go way back to Joe McCarthy,” he said. “They do love people who rattle the cage an awful lot and bring up topics that maybe people don’t want to talk about.”

Former radio host Charlie Sykes, a conservative who the Times says is credited for helping Johnson rise to prominence ahead of his election to the Senate in 2010, said last week that the senator has “turned into” McCarthy.

“I don’t know how he went from being a chamber of commerce guy to somebody who sounds like he reads the Gateway Pundit every day,” Sykes said, according to the Times. “He’s turned into Joe McCarthy.”

Johnson, who has still not announced whether he will run for reelection in 2022, dismissed any comparisons to McCarthy to the Times. 

He also rejected the allegations that his remarks about never being concerned for his safety during the Capitol attack were racist. Johnson previously said the rioters were “people who love this country” and “would never do anything to break the law.”

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“I didn’t feel threatened,” the Wisconsin senator told the newspaper. “So it’s a true statement. And then people said, ‘Well, why?’ Well, because I’ve been to a lot of Trump rallies. I spend three hours with thousands of Trump supporters. And I think I know them pretty well. I don’t know any Trump supporter who would have done what the rioters did.”

He also faced backlash after saying in a later interview about the riot that he "might have been a little concerned" had the mob been comprised of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters.

The Hill reached out to Johnson’s office for additional comment and did not immediately receive a response.

Johnson has come under scrutiny for his comments about the Capitol riot as well as about the coronavirus. The Republican senator told the newspaper that the United States’ “tunnel vision” of working on a COVID-19 vaccine instead of treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by former 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, cost “tens of thousands of lives.” 

Trump had promoted the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 while he was in office, but the Food and Drug Administration has ruled the antimalarial drug is ineffective against COVID-19.