The media has covered GOP claims of a crisis at the southern border extensively.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson claimed in a recent interview that the mainstream media wasn't covering the so-called "crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border because it was too focused on covering the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd in May 2020.
Johnson made the claim in a Tuesday interview with local Wisconsin affiliate WCLO.
"As long as the press is not by and large — the mainstream media’s not particularly interested in this — all the coverage right now is on the George Floyd trial, right? How much of the mainstream media is actually focusing on the border?" he said.
Johnson's claim is not rooted in reality. Much of the current mainstream media coverage of late has been largely focused on the supposed crisis, with multiple reports each day.
On Tuesday, for example, CBS News published a report on a visit to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facility in Donna, Texas. The same day, the network reported on the federal government's efforts to find emergency housing for unaccompanied immigrant children near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Johnson's comments were first flagged by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century, based in Washington, D.C.
Zach Hudson, a spokesperson for American Bridge, slammed Johnson for his statements.
"Consider us not surprised that a politician who makes racist comments on a weekly basis would object to the media covering the trial of George Floyd’s killer," Hudson said in an email. "Ron Johnson is abandoning all pretenses and showing everyone who he is: a racist politician who thinks demonizing Black and Brown people is his ticket to reelection. It’s disgraceful, and it isn’t going to work."
The trial of former Minneapolis officer Chauvin, meanwhile, has managed to capture national media attention as well, having prompted nationwide protests in the spring and summer of 2020. Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, is on trial for killing Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly eight minutes. In video of the incident, now widely circulated, Floyd can be heard pleading with police, telling them "I can't breathe" as onlookers yell at the officers to stop.
Chauvin is facing second and third-degree murder charges as well as a second-degree manslaughter charge.
Floyd's death prompted international outcry and a monumental movement for racial justice. Marches all over the world, particularly in the United States, rallied around the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
Johnson has a long history of controversial and racist remarks.
On March 15, he complained about criticism he had received after telling a conservative radio host days earlier that he would have been scared if the attackers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters. Conversely, he said, he had not felt threatened by the pro-Donald Trump mob.
"There's nothing racial in my comments whatsoever," Johnson said on Milwaukee radio station WISN's "The Dan O'Donnell Show."
He added, "Antifa protests, so many of them are white."
Johnson is also one of several Republican lawmakers attempting to renew the xenophobic "caravan" narrative, which claims large groups of immigrants headed to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum are a threat to Americans, in an effort to thwart President Joe Biden and target his roll-back of several harsh immigration policies implemented by Donald Trump.
"A caravan a day," said Johnson on March 8. "This is the tip of the iceberg of a crisis caused by President Biden's policies."
Republicans used the anti-immigrant "caravan" strategy prior to multiple elections in the past to scare voters and fearmonger about nonwhite asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing threats of violence and poverty in Central America.
Experts have noted that there is no evidence of a "crisis" at the border, or that Biden's various immigration policies are causing it.
Johnson has also faced criticism in the past for racist or offensive remarks. After Donald Trump attacked multiple nonwhite congresswomen, known colloquially as "The Squad," for supposedly not loving America — telling them at one point to "go back" to their home countries, despite the fact that all but one was born in the United States — in the summer of 2019, Johnson shied away from directly confronting the comments, suggesting in a CNN interview they were wrongly being placed in a racist frame.
And in July 2020, Johnson blocked a bill to make Juneteenth, which commemorates the symbolic end of Black slavery in the United States, a federal holiday, insisting that doing so would cost too much money.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.