U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has had plenty to say about the media recently. But an interview on Friday with WTMJ-AM’s Steve Scaffidi revealed one former Milwaukee radio personality apparently has a special place in Johnson’s world.
The interview began relatively normal, covering topics ranging from Covid-19 to Johnson’s odd statements about the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Johnson repeatedly lied during the interview, especially about the riots of January 6, but Scaffidi politely let the statements go unchallenged.
But after Johnson answered a question about alleged fraud in the 2020 election, he complained yet again about the “hit pieces” in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Then Johnson turned on Scaffidi. The transcript is below:
Scaffidi: The last one before I move on is…
Johnson: By the way, Steve, I have to say.
Johnson: I’ve heard that you’ve kinda gone full Charlie Sykes on me and I can kind of hear the tone of your questions as well. I hope you haven’t. But I hope that if you have gone full Charlie Sykes on me I hope your listeners haven’t particularly appreciated it. Go ahead, ask me a few final questions.
Scaffidi: Well, I don’t know what the Charlie Sykes thing refers to. I want to make sure that we’re getting from the source the correct answers to the issues that the media are raising, and I think that I present both sides as fairly as I can. So I don’t appreciate the Charlie Sykes reference but let’s move forward.
It’s unknown whether Johnson was rolling ball bearings in hand as he talked. An email to Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel asking for the meaning of “full Charlie Sykes” went unanswered Monday.
Sykes, an editor-at-large of The Bulwark, commented on Johnson’s statement in The Bulwark Podcast.
“I think I pretty much do know what that means,” Sykes said. “Apparently I am continuing to live rent free in Senator Johnson’s head which is actually kind of a scary place these days.”
After the interview with Johnson, Scaffidi returned to the senator’s comment about going “full Charlie Sykes.” Despite the senator’s odd obnoxious behavior, including hoping the audience turned on the radio host, Scaffidi politely did not criticize Johnson in his remarks
“So I will always welcome the senator. We don’t have to agree,” Scaffidi said. “He can compare me to whomever he wants to compare me to, and frankly Charlie Sykes – that’s a compliment in my mind. I have no problems with that.”
Johnson has been a frequent target of criticism from writers at The Bulwark for his role in promoting the idea that the 2020 election was stolen, Johnson’s plans to object to the certification of the presidential election results in several states including Wisconsin, Johnson’s statements regarding both impeachments of President Donald Trump, Johnson’s promotion of quack medicine peddlers in committee hearings on Covid-19, and Johnson’s (frequently changing) statements concerning the riots at the Capitol on January 6.
The Bulwark also ran a column by Mark Becker which divulged the contents of a phone call between Becker and Johnson in which the senator said that the positions he took on Trump’s election challenges were just to keep the base happy.
Sykes, who along with other conservative critics of Johnson sometimes calls the senator “Ron-Anon,” wrote an article in May 2020 about his role in helping Johnson get elected to the Senate and his disappointment in Johnson since then.
“What happened to Ron Johnson? On one level, his story is not all that much different from the rest of the GOP, which has transformed itself into Trumpist camp followers,” Sykes wrote. “But I thought Ronjon would be different.”