Washington, DC – The elevation of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) to the Speaker of the House is concerning, considering his past promotion of the white nationalist and antisemitic great replacement theory. Now in the job, it is critically important that Speaker Johnson repudiate these beliefs and condemn in the strongest terms any form of antisemitism, racism, and bigotry.
Today, also marks five years after the horrific antisemitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where 11 people were murdered. The mass murderer subscribed to the replacement and invasion ideas that the Speaker of the House has amplified.
Again and again, our country has experienced hate violence inspired by this conspiracy theory-driven rhetoric. We know this because racist mass murderers tell us this in their screeds. Driven by fear-mongering about “replacement” and “invasion,” terrorists targeted the Latino community in El Paso, Texas, Black Americans in Buffalo, New York, and Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Poway, California, among other communities.
The rhetoric from political leaders can have deadly downstream consequences. When asked in July 2023, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed in testimony before Congress that when Members of Congress use great replacement conspiracy theory language, like describing migrants as an “invasion,” it “fuels the threat landscape we encounter.”
According to Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs: who previously spearheaded the effort to hold accountable the neo-Nazis responsible for the Charlottesville violence: “We’re already grappling with a crisis of antisemitism and hate-fueled violence exacerbated by the situation in Israel and Gaza. Our communities are terrified – and the last thing we need are elected leaders who further normalize bigotry and extremism. As we mark five years since the Pittsburgh attack, it’s crucial that Speaker Johnson unequivocally reject these conspiracy theories and all forms of hate – and move forward an agenda aimed at breaking the cycle of extremist violence, rather than fueling it.”
According to Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, Washington Director at Bend the Arc: Jewish Action: “Five years ago today, a man murdered eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. The perpetrator was clear that his attack was motivated by White Nationalist ideas of ‘invasion’ and ‘great replacement.’ Those lies continue to be irresponsibly touted by politicians like Donald Trump, Matt Gaetz, and Speaker Mike Johnson, even as they inspired subsequent massacres against the Latino community in El Paso, Texas, and Black Americans in Buffalo, New York. That Speaker Johnson continues to trumpet these lies should be of grave concern to all.”
According to Matt Nelson, Executive Director at Presente Action: “The Speaker of the House should embrace an inclusive democracy that protects and celebrates Latine and migrant families. Rep. Johnson’s election as Speaker is alarming and deeply disappointing. Our nation deserves leaders who promote a culture of care, not an elected official who embraces dangerous white nationalist conspiracy theories. This dangerous rhetoric and ideology has cost people of color their lives.”
According to Erin Wilson, Senior Director for Extremism and Human Rights at Human Rights First: “Five years ago, a white supremacist motivated by conspiratorial ‘migrant invasion’ narratives murdered eleven worshippers in a synagogue. Today, we call on Speaker Johnson to repudiate this antisemitic, xenophobic rhetoric, and to condemn the normalization of this bigotry by Members of Congress. The ongoing mainstreaming of this rhetoric – often targeted at migrants and asylum seekers – endangers the safety of our communities and the strength of our democracy. Our nation’s leaders must confront and challenge this lethal threat.”
According to Vanessa Cárdenas, America’s Voice Executive Director: “Rep. Mike Johnson has gone much farther than most of his Republican colleagues, including past Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in embracing and elevating ‘great replacement’ rhetoric — rhetoric that has deep roots in antisemitism and has been linked to multiple acts of deadly violence like the one five years ago today in Pittsburgh. This dangerously bigoted rhetoric has no place in our political discourse, let alone from the lips of the Speaker of the House. It threatens our public safety and democracy and must be condemned in the strongest terms.”
According to Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism: “Under no circumstances should any politician, let alone the Speaker of the House, be associated with white nationalism. Yet, Rep. Johnson has spewed anti-immigrant, racist, and antisemitic talking points echoing the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory time and time again. It is past time for our country to come together and be proud that we are stronger for all our diversity. Putting another political leader in charge who instead spreads the same hate that has been connected with multiple mass murders is a step in the wrong direction.”
According to Lindsay Schubiner, Director of Programs, Western States Center: “It’s a troubling sign for our democracy that Congress has elevated into leadership someone who has consistently mainstreamed bigoted conspiracy theories. Using dehumanizing language about immigrants—or any group of people—should be immediately disqualifying. The fact that it’s not, and that bigoted rhetoric has been so normalized within our politics, raises the risk of hate violence enormously. We are already seeing these impacts on our communities, and we must not ignore the clear ties between the bigoted rhetoric espoused by elected officials in our nation’s highest public offices, and the actions of domestic extremists. It’s the responsibility of every elected official and community leader to explicitly reject bigoted rhetoric and disinformation driven by the antisemitic great replacement theory.”
According to Rachel Carroll Rivas, Deputy Director of Research, Reporting & Analysis with the SPLC Action Fund: “It is horrifying that someone who spent so much of his career working to advance hateful ideology has been elected by all his Republican colleagues in the house to wield the power of the speaker’s office to influence the public agenda at the highest levels of government. Rep. Mike Johnson has dedicated his career to undermining democracy and rolling back basic American rights. We should have a speaker who works to unite our nation, not deepen the growing divide.”