Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday accused Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) of perpetuating harmful racist tropes for downplaying the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol and saying he would have been “concerned” if it had been Black Lives Matter protesters quite than supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Menendez, who chairs the highly effective Senate Foreign Relations Committee, broke with Senate decorum to personally problem a colleague on the ground of the higher chamber.
“I get no one likes to be called racist,” Menendez mentioned, “but sometimes there is no other way.”
In a March 11 radio interview, Johnson mentioned he seen the mob that stormed the Capitol at Trump’s course as “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement [and] would never do anything to break a law.”
Black Lives Matter protesters would have made him “a little concerned,” Johnson mentioned.
The Justice Department has charged 300 pro-Trump rioters with federal offenses associated to the riot, together with for assaulting cops.
After studying aloud Johnson’s assertion, Menendez mentioned: “Is that not racism?”
Johnson has since insisted his feedback have been “innocuous” and “not racial,” and he wrote an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal claiming the left was in search of to silence him.
But to many individuals, Johnson’s phrases signify “a stain on the office he is so fortunate to hold,” Menendez mentioned. He famous that 1000’s of individuals of shade, together with Black individuals, work on Capitol Hill in a wide range of roles, and “many of them feared for their lives on Jan. 6, but not Sen. Johnson.”
And he learn aloud an e mail he acquired over the weekend from a Black staffer who has labored for him for many years, who instructed Menendez that Johnson’s remarks incited concern of Black Americans and represented “the most painful thing I have ever heard being said by a U.S. senator.”
“For one of our colleagues to cast those who attacked the Capitol as harmless patriots while stoking fear of Black Americans is like rubbing salt in an open wound,” Menendez continued.
Menendez cited Harvard University research displaying that greater than 96% of final summer season’s Black Lives Matter protests concerned no property harm or police accidents, whereas almost 98% concerned no accidents in any respect. The senator contrasted Donald Trump’s name for heavy-handed authorities responses to that motion to the Trump administration’s sluggish response to the assault on the Capitol.
“We often twist ourselves into pretzels to avoid saying anything that might be interpreted as a criticism of another senator, but there comes a time when these verbal gymnastics simply won’t do,” Menendez mentioned, noting that all through American historical past, racist insurance policies have been justified utilizing hateful depictions of individuals of shade.
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