Racist Ron Johnson ad tries to smear Mandela Barnes by tying him to House members of color


The Wisconsin Republican's ad ends with a photo of Johnson posing with a grinning white man in a sheriff's uniform.

A racist new ad from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) baselessly tries to suggest that his Democratic opponent Mandela Barnes would vote the same way as a group of progressive House members of color. If elected, Barnes would be Wisconsin's first ever Black U.S. senator.

Barnes is running for Senate, not the House of Representatives.

The 30-second spot released Thursday begins with images of Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

"The socialist 'Squad' is leading the charge to defund our police," the ad's narrator claims.

After claiming that "crime is on the rise," the ad asserts that Barnes, the current Wisconsin lieutenant governor and Democratic nominee challenging Johnson in November, "would eagerly join their 'Squad'" as he "wanted to abolish ICE" and is "dangerously liberal on crime."

Following grainy images of Barnes, immigrants, and lawmakers of color, the ad concludes with a photo of Johnson posing with a grinning white man in a sheriff's uniform with a pro-police "thin blue line" flag in the background.

"The Squad" is an informal group of six progressive House members of color, including Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, and Omar. While the ad offers citations in small text for some of its claims, Johnson does not even attempt to offer any evidence of his assertion that Barnes would affiliate with the House group or back its efforts to defund law enforcement.

Indeed Barnes, who leads Johnson in two recent polls, has expressly said that he does not support defunding the police or abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"I don't support defunding the police," he told Spectrum News in March. "But what I do support is investing just as heavily in community resources in the prevention of crime, investing in schools, good paying jobs, the things that keep communities safe to prevent crime from happening in the first place."

"I don't support abolishing ICE," he added, "but I do fully support addressing the concerns and issues and challenges that people have so that we can have a fair, comprehensive immigration reform system that will create a pathway to citizenship."

Barnes spokesperson Maddy McDaniel responded to the attack ad in a press release on Thursday:

This ad is just more of Ron Johnson’s lies to distract us from his record of delivering for his wealthy donors and attacking Social Security. Lt. Governor Barnes has worked to keep Wisconsin families and communities safe throughout his career. He is running for Senate to represent Wisconsin, not to join any ideological group. Ron Johnson can peddle these tired attacks all he wants, but the people of Wisconsin know that Mandela Barnes will always fight for safety and opportunity for working people.

While Johnson claims to be an ally for law enforcement who will "always Back the Blue," Barnes' campaign noted that Johnson — like every other Republican in Congress — opposed President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan last year. That law provided hundreds of billions of dollars in direct support for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, much of which went to fund public safety and policing.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Barnes were able to spend $56 million of their share of the rescue funds on police and addressing court backlogs.

Johnson has also consistently voted against legislation to curb gun violence, including a vote in June against the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — a compromise backed by 65 of his colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Johnson has a history of making racist statements.

In April 2021, he pushed the racist "great replacement" theory that Democrats want to bring in immigrants to the United States just to gain votes in future elections during a Fox News appearance.

One month earlier, he told right-wing talk radio host Joe Pags that he "wasn't concerned" by the mostly white attackers who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2022, because he "knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law."

"Now, had the tables been turned — Joe, this could get me in trouble — 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," he added.

Johnson, who is seeking a third six-year term after promising not to serve more than two terms, is the second least popular senator in the country, according to an April 50-state survey by Morning Consult Political Intelligence. Only McConnell (R-KY) had a lower approval rating in his own state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.