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PolitiFact: Ron Johnson Gets Caught With his “Pants on Fire” for Claiming January 6th was not an Armed Insurrection

Oct 10, 2022

PolitiFact: Ron Johnson Gets Caught With his “Pants on Fire” for Claiming January 6th was not an Armed Insurrection

“It’s Johnson’s claim – that it was not an armed insurrection – that is inaccurate.”

MADISON, Wis. –

new PolitiFact confirms what Wisconsinites know but Ron Johnson refuses to accept – that the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th was an armed insurrection.

Key Points:

  • The earlier hearings, and the criminal charges brought against more than 900 protesters by the U.S. Department of Justice, have made clear that the events of that day were part of a coordinated effort to prevent the lawful transfer of power to newly-elected President Joe Biden. An insurrection.
  • The hearings have included video footage and photos of the attack showing participants erecting gallows, deploying pepper spray, hurling a fire extinguisher, using baseball bats to smash windows, and throwing flags like spears at police officers. Within a week of the attack, a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found. In other words, the crowd was armed.
  • Both points seem clear.
  • Not to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican locked in a tight re-election race against Democrat Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor. Here was Johnson during an Oct. 4, 2022 appearance at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
  • “Now some of the protesters did teach us all how you can use flagpoles and that kind of stuff as weapons. But to call what happened on January 6 an armed insurrection, I just think is not accurate.”
  • On that, he is plainly wrong.
  • To be sure, this is not the first time Johnson has made such a claim.
  • The New York Times had reviewed video that showed people using stolen police shields, sticks and crutches as weapons.
  • A man photographed with his feet on the desk of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was carrying a 950,000-volt stun gun walking stick.
  • In addition, reports said pipe bombs were found near the Capitol at Republican and Democratic party headquarters.
  • At least $2.5 million of damage was done to the Capitol.
  • As NPR also noted:  “About 140 law enforcement officers suffered injuries in the attack,  many at the hands of rioters wielding pepper spray, metal pipes and American flags fashioned into clubs.”
  • Four people in the crowd died Jan. 6, 2021, including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by Capitol Police as the crowd tried to breach the House chamber.
  • In the days and weeks after the insurrection, additional people died, according to The New York Times, including five law enforcement officers, one of whom, Brian D. Sicknick, had been attacked by the mob and died of his injuries Jan. 7, 2021.

Charges against leaders

  • On Oct. 6, 2022, Jeremy Bertino, 43, of Belmont, N.C., a former Proud Boys lieutenant, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department against the group’s former chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other Proud Boys leaders. They are scheduled for trial in December.
  • According to the Washington Post, the Proud Boys members are accused of “plotting to oppose by force the presidential transition, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.”
  • In addition to the conspiracy charge, according to the Washington Post, Bertino also pleaded guilty to a charge of illegal possession of firearms as a former felon. Bertino faces up to 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and up to 10 years in prison for the firearms charge, the Justice Department said. No sentencing date was set.
  • Meanwhile, several leaders of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy, a rarely used Civil War era offense, in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Our ruling

  • Johnson said “To call what happened on January 6 an armed insurrection, I just think is not accurate.”
  • It’s Johnson’s claim – that it was not an armed insurrection – that is inaccurate.
  • There was plenty of evidence to refute that claim when Johnson made it in the immediate aftermath of January 6, 2021. There is plenty more now.
  • It’s still false and ridiculous.
  • It’s still Pants on Fire

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