Local Wisconsin media barely covered Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) recent endorsement of the racist and antisemitic “great replacement” conspiracy theory, failing to inform local audiences of his extremist rhetoric.
Johnson claimed on Fox Business’ Kudlow that Vice President Kamala Harris and the Democrats want to “remake the demographics” of the United States. This is a reference to the central tenet of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, whose proponents allege that powerful people are seeking to “replace” white people with people of color via mass immigration. Those supposedly orchestrating this “replacement” are often implicitly or explicitly identified as Jewish.
The deeply racist and antisemetic conspiracy theory was referenced by the alt-right during a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the 2019 El Paso, Texas, gunman’s manifesto. But recently, it has gained a more mainstream advocate in Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has endorsed the conspiracy theory on his Fox prime-time show.
But after Johnson's interview aired, almost no Wisconsin local media outlets mentioned that one of their senators appeared to endorse this white supremacist claim.
Based on a Media Matters analysis of databases of local print and broadcast media in Wisconsin between April 15 and 29, no local outlets mentioned the Johnson Fox Business interview in their own reporting. The only report came in an Associated Press piece that mentioned the Johnson interview and was republished in a few local outlets including the Wisconsin State Journal and the print edition of the Daily Citizen.
Johnson’s dabbling in white supremacist conspiracy theory is newsworthy, and multiple national outlets did take notice of Johnson’s remarks. MSNBC and the Washington Post both connected Johnson’s interview with a larger pattern of right-wing media and GOP politicians publicly endorsing the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The American Independent noted that Johnson’s support of the “great replacement” theory is part of a pattern of racist comments from the senator since the January 6 Capitol riot:
In a March radio interview, Johnson said he “never felt threatened" by the insurrectionists — who attacked law enforcement officers and threatened to hang Mike Pence because he wouldn't block President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory from being certified — because they “love this country." Instead, he said if the insurrectionists were Black Lives Matter activists, he “might have been a little concerned."
The senator's remarks reflect a pattern of racist and conspiratorial thinking from Johnson as well as other members of his own party, so much so that multiple major media outlets took notice. Yet this coverage is not reflected in Johnson’s home state.
Media Matters searched the Kinetiq and Factiva databases for local print, broadcast, and web news in Wisconsin that mentioned the term “Johnson” in the same transcript or article as “Fox Business,” “Kudlow,” “remake the demographics,” or “open borders” from April 15 through April 29, 2021.
We searched the Marquette, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Green Bay-Appleton, Madison, La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wausau-Rhinelander and Duluth-Superior broadcast television markets via Kinetiq and all of the Wisconsin local media in Factiva’s database.