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Ron Johnson: 'No racism involved' in comments about Capitol riot

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator YouTube suspends Ron Johnson for 7 days GOP senators introduce bill to make Iran deal subject to Senate approval MORE (R-Wis.) on Monday responded to bipartisan criticism over comments he made last week regarding Black Lives Matter protesters, arguing there was "no racism" in his previous remarks.

“It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with riots,” Johnson told Milwaukee-based WISN-AM, according to The Associated Press. “I completely did not anticipate that anybody could interpret what I said as racist. It’s not.”

During a radio interview last week with host Joe Pagliarulo, the Wisconsin Republican said he didn’t fear for his safety during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but added that he might have been concerned if the rioters were associated with Black Lives Matter or antifa.

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“Now, had the tables been turned — and Joe, this is going to get me in trouble — had the tables been turned and [former] President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned,” said Johnson.

Johnson on Monday argued that because many Black Lives Matter protesters are white, his earlier remarks should not be construed as racist.

“Remember those leftist activists, those protesters, that some of them turned into riots? A lot of them are white,” Johnson said. “So there’s no racism involved in this at all.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized Johnson for his previous comments. 

“This is where the Republican party has gone,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalJayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure New Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Hillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator MORE (D-Wash.) told CNN on Sunday. They are clearly embracing racist ideologies, white supremacist groups and completely emboldened to say that out loud in public.”

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In a tweet over the weekend, the right-leaning Lincoln Project labeled Johnson’s comments “racist.” On Monday, Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerCheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin Axios CEO says GOP before Trump will not return MORE (R-Ill.) called the GOP senator's remarks “absolutely ludicrous.”

In a statement to The Hill over the weekend, Johnson said his concerns were a result of last summer's Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.

“Out of 7,750 protests last summer associated with leftists, 570 turned into violent riots that killed 25 people and caused $1- $2 billion of property damage. That’s why I would have been more concerned," he said.

The nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project previously determined that more than 90 percent of the demonstrations were peaceful.

Johnson, who is up for reelection next year, has signaled he might not seek another term.

The storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer. Dozens more suffered serious injuries, with one Capitol Police officer losing an eye.

Two other officers died by suicide after the attack, and numerous D.C. police officers were injured in the melee.