Sinclair Broadcast Group host Sharyl Attkisson on Sunday interviewed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) about the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, but she failed to mention that Johnson promoted the election fraud lies that inspired the attack in the first place.
In December, Johnson -- who was then chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee -- held a hearing titled “Examining Irregularities in the 2020 Election,” which Vox described as “a platform for discredited election conspiracy theories.” During that hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) claimed the election “was stolen” and one of President Donald Trump’s election lawyers repeated a false election fraud theory that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had rejected.
Johnson also announced on January 2 that he would join with 10 other Republican senators in rejecting the certification of some electoral votes on January 6. (Following the interruption of the certification by the insurrectionists, Johnson ultimately did not vote to sustain any of the objections to certification, but he did sign onto an objection to Arizona's electors before the siege.)
Johnson has also repeatedly made controversial comments about the Capitol insurrection. During a February 23 Senate hearing, Johnson falsely suggested that “fake Trump protesters” and other infiltrators “are the people that probably planned” the attack on the Capitol. In mid-March, Johnson told a conservative radio show host that he “wasn’t concerned” for his safety during the insurrection because he “knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” He then said that if the attackers were “tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa, I might have been a little concerned.” Later in March, Johnson falsely claimed there was “no violence on the Senate side” of the Capitol during the insurrection.
Attkisson failed to mention any of this important context about the April 18 interview topic. Instead, she allowed Johnson to repeat his false suggestion that the insurrectionists weren’t armed.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I'm trying to re-create accurately what happened. Obviously, I've been vilified because I'm asking these questions, because I'm pushing back on what I believe is an inaccurate narrative, that there were literally thousands of armed insurrectionists intent on overthrowing the government. I just don't think that's an accurate assessment of exactly what happened.
One, which prompted my question of the FBI witness, “How many firearms” -- because when I hear “armed," I really think “firearms.” Again, cognizant of the fact that you can use other things as a weapon, I don't condone that, I've condemned all of this. But when I asked, “How many firearms were confiscated,” that witness said zero.
A USA Today fact check of right-wing media promoting Johnson’s question explained that focusing on this response from the FBI witness is misleading:
Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to prevent Congress from counting electoral votes that would declare President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election carried baseball bats, brought zip-cuffs and used flagpoles to break into the building.
Law enforcement officials have said some also had guns.
After a March 3 meeting of a joint oversight Senate committee investigating the riot, some outlets seized on testimony from the FBI counterterrorism division's assistant director that the bureau had not recovered any guns during the incident.
But that leaves out the first part of [FBI assistant director Jill] Sanborn’s response, when she declined to speak for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department or U.S. Capitol Police.
The U.S. Department of Justice has charged at least three people on gun charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot, including one whom prosecutors said Metro police found carrying a loaded handgun with an extra magazine.
Sanborn later noted that investigators found a firearm in a search of a vehicle that also had Molotov cocktails.
So far, at least three people have been charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with gun crimes related to the Capitol riot, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
A PolitiFact fact check of Johnson’s claim that the siege of the Capitol “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection” was harsher, labeling his claim “ridiculous revisionist history”:
Overwhelmed police arrested and had direct contact with only a fraction of the mob that day, but we still can identify accounts of numerous weapons found in and around the Capitol, brought there in some cases by people who saw themselves as soldiers in a war. And many other rioters used whatever hard objects they could find to attack police and force their way into the Capitol.
This is the bizarre perspective of the man Attkisson chose to share with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s huge local TV audience; her Full Measure program airs on 162 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations. Her failure to include necessary context about Johnson’s actions and comments may lead her viewers to believe that he is a credible source of information about the insurrection. Attkisson also failed to mention or press Johnson about a Fox Business interview he gave a couple of days before, in which he pushed the white nationalist replacement theory, a plainly newsworthy topic.