Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he did not feel threatened during the Capitol riot on January 6, but that he would have felt differently if the group had been Black Lives Matter protesters.
Johnson, a Republican, was speaking during a radio interview that aired Friday on the conservative talk show, The Joe Pags Show. He repeated a statement he has made in the past that he "never felt threatened" on January 6, when a pro-Trump mob took seige of the Capitol, prompting lawmakers to evacuate.
"I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn't concerned," Johnson said.
Five people died as a result of the riot, including a Capitol police officer.
So far, law enforcement have arrested more than 315 people at the riot on charges that include assaulting an officer, violent entry, and entering a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
—Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) March 13, 2021
"Had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election, and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned," Johnson said, acknowledging that the remark could get him "in trouble."
Conservatives have frequently drawn a false equivalence between Black Lives Matter protesters and antifa, which is a separate political movement based on anti-fascism ideology, though some people who align with antifa did take part in racial justice protests last year.
Last summer saw the most civil rights protests in a generation, and in the thousands of demonstrations that took place following the death of George Floyd, some turned into violent riots with looting and property destruction.
However, an analysis by the US Crisis Project found 93% of the racial justice protests that occurred over the summer were peaceful protests. The report identified more than 2,400 locations at which peaceful protests took place, while violent demonstrations occurred in only 220 locations.
Some people on Twitter called Johnson's remark racist, including Joe Walsh, another conservative talk show host and former GOP representative from Illinois.
"I got elected with Ron Johnson. I liked Ron Johnson. I don't know who the hell this Ron Johnson is. This is ugly. This is wrong. This is racist," Walsh tweeted, along with an audio clip.