OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson accused Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as the top U.S. antisemitism envoy of engaging in “malicious poison” after she claimed Johnson was pushing “white supremacy.”
During a Senate hearing, Johnson confronted Deborah Lipstadt, Biden’s nominee to be the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Last March, Lipstadt shared an article about Johnson saying that he “wasn’t concerned” about those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in that “had the tables been turned and President [Donald] Trump won the election and tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, I might have been a little concerned.”
“This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple,” tweeted Lipstadt.
This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple. GOP Senator Johnson slammed as 'white nationalist sympathizer' after race remarks https://t.co/9vaBQsqK7J
— Deborah E. Lipstadt (@deborahlipstadt) March 14, 2021
During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Johnson asked Lipstadt, “If someone came up to you privately and said that ‘you’re a racist, you’re a White supremacist, you’re a White nationalist – by the way, I do not believe you are, I would never assume that because, certainly, growing up, when I was being taught the commandment that says do not bear false witness … always assume the best about people, not the worst – how would you feel if someone just privately called you a racist?”
“First of all, I would say they’re wrong,” replied Lipstadt. “Second of all, I would disagree with them.”
Lipstadt added that she criticizes behavior, “not the person.”
“That’s not true,” said Johnson. “What you just testified there is false.”
“You don’t know me. You don’t know a lot of the people you have accused online in front of millions of people,” added Johnson. “You have engaged in the malicious poison. You’ve accused people you don’t know of very vile things.”
Johnson asked Lipstadt whether she knew what was “in [his heart.”
Lipstadt replied, “I have no idea. No, I do not know what is in your heart at all.”
“So why would you go on social media and make those charges,” asked Johnson, who accused Lipstadt of “hurling” what he called “vile and horrible charges.”
Lipstadt denied calling him “personally” a White supremacist and White nationalist.
Johnson had none of it.
“We all know the tweet. It’s right here,” he said, holding up a paper and quoting the tweet. He asked her, “Do you feel bad about that at all? Do you retract that?”
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NY), interjected and said, “Can we allow the witness to answer your questions?”
“As I said earlier, it was not nuanced. I would not do diplomacy by tweet. While I may disagree with … what you said specifically and I think that’s [a] legitimate difference, I certainly did not mean it and I’m sorry if it was taken. And I’m sorry if I made it in a way that it could be assumed to be a political … at the person personally.”
Johnson accepted her apology but said he would vote against her nomination.
“I appreciate your apology and I’ll accept your apology,” he said, adding “appreciate the apology, but I think somebody that has had a 30-year professional career ought to know better and when you’re being nominated and considered for confirmation to a position of diplomacy, representing [the] United States, I certainly cannot support your nomination. I hope my other colleagues won’t either.”
“You’re just simply not qualified for it,” continued Johnson. “But I wish you the best in life and I do accept your apology.”