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Sen. Ron Johnson: The truth behind my statement on the Waukesha massacre

Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

On Sunday, Nov. 21, a Christmas parade, intended to initiate a season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, turned into a nightmare and a slaughter of innocents. Families with their children who came to see Santa Claus, high school bands, and the Dancing Grannies instead witnessed a horror that will leave a lifelong psychological scar. First responders and law enforcement who rushed in to administer first aid and compassionately deal with the broken bodies and broken spirits will also be scarred for life.

The healing process began immediately, as the citizens of Waukesha came together to help the victims and survivors. Monday evening, hundreds of people attended an interfaith prayer vigil to pray for healing and strength. I had the privilege of attending that vigil and speaking to members of the community, first responders, and those who knew the victims. It was a moving experience that I will never forget — sorrowful and yet hopeful.

I attended the prayer vigil to offer my sincere condolences and whatever help I could, knowing that except for those providing medical and spiritual healing, there was not much anyone else could do.

On Friday, I received a call from one of the individuals I spoke to Monday evening. There was growing concern that outside individuals or groups from the more radical ends of both sides of the political spectrum might come to Waukesha as agitators and stir up trouble — potentially leading to violence. After what Wisconsin experienced in Kenosha, this was not a concern to take lightly. I was asked if there was anything I could do to help dissuade that kind of disruption. I spoke to others about writing and issuing a bipartisan release, and they agreed it would be helpful.

So I reached out to Sen. Tammy Baldwin to see if she would join me in issuing it. After reviewing and suggesting a small edit, she agreed to join, and we issued the release on Saturday. I certainly felt that officials in Waukesha had enough to deal with and the last thing they needed was protests that could result in violence and further suffering.

To date, fortunately, no agitators have shown up to sow chaos, and city officials have been able to continue fulfilling their responsibilities without interference. If our bipartisan appeal helped dissuade harmful and violent activity, I would consider it a small victory during a time of such division.

Unfortunately, our bipartisan appeal has been misinterpreted, misconstrued, and criticized. Some conservative voices have inaccurately portrayed it as denying the reality that the homicides in Waukesha could have been avoided were it not for low bail policies or that they may have been politically motivated. The joint release was not denying reality. In fact, the release called for a thorough investigation, full due process, prosecution, and punishment to the full extent of the law.

In addition, during numerous media appearances shortly after, I said the homicides and assaults never should have happened and that the catch-and-release policies of the political left were resulting in more crime and greater violence. Somehow those statements of mine were overlooked by some who are justifiably outraged by the bias in the media and the glaring disparity in the coverage of violence depending on which side of the political spectrum the perpetrators may come from.

I share those concerns regarding blatant media bias and the grossly unfair reporting by the leftist mainstream and social media. But if we are to succeed in defeating them and saving our country from their destructive policies, we do need to resist the reflexive tendency toward infighting. At a minimum, reach out before assuming and conveying the worst.

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