Dartunorro Clark and Frank Thorp V, NBC News, March 16, 2021
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., broke with Senate decorum Tuesday by calling Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., “racist” on the chamber floor over Johnson’s remarks about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Johnson told a conservative talk radio show last week that he was not afraid of the pro-Trump rioters that day but that he would have been afraid had they been Black Lives Matter protesters or antifa members and former President Donald Trump had won re-election.
“Look, I get no one likes to be called racist, but sometimes there’s just no other way to describe the use of bigoted tropes that for generations have threatened Black lives by stoking white fear of African Americans and Black men in particular,” Menendez said on the Senate floor.
“I don’t think the senator is ignorant of the fact that for centuries in this country white supremacy has thrived on using fear to justify oppression, discrimination and violence against people of color,” Menendez said. “I do, however, think my colleague may be ignorant of the pain caused by his comments and unaware of how they compound the trauma that so many still feel in the wake of the events of January 6.”
Menendez noted how his speech broke with Senate decorum, because, as he added, “we often twist ourselves into pretzels to avoid saying anything that might be interpreted as a criticism of another senator.” He said he received a concerning letter about Johnson’s remarks from a longtime aide, who is Black, which prompted the speech.