February 08, 2022

**ICYMI** Chairman Menendez Defends Statements Condemning GOP Senator’s January 6th Comments

WASHINGTON – At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to consider the nomination of renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt to be Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today defended his and the Holocaust historian’s denunciations of Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) previous comments in support of the January 6 insurrectionists. The Wisconsin Republican demanded an apology for being called out by Senator Menendez and Professor Lipstadt after he told a radio host he would have felt threatened had the insurrection been organized by Black Lives Matter and Antifa supporters instead of Trump supporters “who love this country” and “truly respect law enforcement.”

“I will not apologize for the speech I made on the Senate Floor. If we cannot call out comments for what they are – if we don’t understand that words have power to them – sometimes very negative, powerful consequences, then we can never challenge whether it be anti-Semitism or racism or other elements,” Chairman Menendez said. “I think it also worth pointing out that the rioters on that day literally wore and bore Nazi symbolism, including t-shirts that said ‘6MWE,’ which stands for 6 million – those who perished in the Holocaust – was not enough, and a t-shirt saying ‘Camp Auschwitz’ on one side, and on the other side of that t-shirt ‘Staff,’ as well as confederate flags and nooses. Maybe the Senator was not afraid for his life, but every Jewish person in the Capitol certainly had reason to be concerned for their lives.

The Chairman continued: “I have a record replete of nominees under the previous administration who made incredibly outrageous statements, and yet in each and every context, they were confirmed, and some of them really didn’t have the background to be confirmed to the positions they were confirmed to. In this case, we have a nominee that is impeccable in terms of their knowledge of the subject matter, probably not just in the U.S. but a global expert and scholar on the question of anti-Semitism. I think if you can’t call out an anti-Semitic trope or prejudice, how in God’s name are you going to do this job? Your proven history of fighting against anti-Semitism here in the United States and around the world I think makes you uniquely qualified for this position.”

Professor Lipstadt, who served as an expert witness at the trial of the white supremacists behind the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, tweeted on March 14, 2021, “This is white supremacy/nationalism.  Pure and simple” in response to Johnson’s comments in defense of the January 6th rioters.

In a Senate Floor speech, Chairman Menendez joined in condemning Senator Johnson’s comments, adding: “I do not 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. I do however think my colleague may be ignorant of the pain caused by his comments and unaware of how they compound the trauma so many still feel in the wake of the events of January 6th. Everyone in this body should know that when you perpetuate such racist tropes, you contribute to a culture that gives people permission to treat Black Americans as suspicious and their lives as expendable.”

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