Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has repeatedly spread anti-vaccine misinformation. But just last year, the Wisconsin senator attacked Democrats on the issue, saying that undermining confidence in a vaccine for Covid-19 would cost deaths.
Johnson made his comments in October 2020 on Wisconsin local radio when discussing the vice presidential debate between then-Vice President Mike Pence and then-Sen. Kamala Harris. Harris had said she wouldn’t take a vaccine on the word of President Donald Trump alone, only if it was recommended by medical authorities.
“If she could actually experience shame – and I’m not sure any Democrat can – she should have been ashamed of herself,” Johnson said. “When the Vice President said, ‘Senator, will you please stop undermining people’s confidence in the vaccine?’ I mean, that’d be a terrible thing if we have an effective vaccine and a safe one, and that’s the only one we’ll release. But if you are out there undermining that possibility, that will cause people’s deaths.”
Johnson has been the subject of repeated fact checks from CNN’s fact checking team over misinformation he has spread throughout the pandemic. He has falsely suggested the Covid vaccine has caused thousands of deaths and has argued against the campaign to vaccinate most Americans.
Alexa Henning, Johnson’s spokesman, told CNN he was pro-vaccine.
“As the senator has previously stated, he is pro-vaccine. He was a big supporter of Operation Warp Speed. Like everyone, he wants the pandemic to end and hopes the vaccine will play a key role in ending it.”
Harris’ comments were first made in September 2020, when she was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash whether she would get a vaccine that was approved and distributed before the election. Harris said at the time, “Well, I think that’s going to be an issue for all of us.”
“I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about,” she continued. “I will not take his word for it.”
Pence had challenged Harris in the debate to “stop undermining confidence in a vaccine.” Harris responded by saying, “If public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”
Harris received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine in December.
“That was easy,” Harris said at the time. “Thank you. I barely felt it.”