The Slatest

Watch NBC Host Slam GOP Senator Over Election Challenge: “You’re the Arsonist Here”

Johnson seated during a committee hearing
Sen. Ron Johnson on Capitol Hill on Dec. 16. Greg Nash/Getty Images

NBC’s Chuck Todd was sharply critical of Sen. Ron Johnson for his decision to join other Republican senators in trying to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. In a contentious interview on Meet the Press, Todd and Johnson accused each other of hypocrisy. Todd said that the country is now in a “destructive, vicious circle” because the senators were the ones who created the controversy about the election and now are acting like it’s an issue that needs answers even though there is no proof of widespread voter fraud. “You made an allegation that there was widespread fraud. You have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud. But you’re demanding an investigation on the grounds that there are allegations of widespread fraud,” Todd said. “So essentially, you’re the arsonist here. President Trump is the arsonist here.”

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The word arsonist referred to a phrase used by Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who complained a few days ago of “institutional arsonist members of Congress” who were raising questions about the validity of the election for political gain. “You’ve started this fire,” Todd said, “because you didn’t have the guts to tell the truth that this election was fair.” Johnson fired back that the “fire was started” when “mainstream media stopped, dropped any pretense of being unbiased and actually chose sides during this election.” At one point both Todd and Johnson said they’ve had “enough” of the arguments but continued making them. Todd went on to say that Johnson had spent “the last two years carrying a lot of crazy conspiratorial water for President Trump.” Johnson said he was “trying to be transparent” and proceeded to repeat baseless claims of voter fraud.

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Johnson was only one of two out of the 12 Senate Republicans who agreed to appear on a Sunday morning talk show after they said they would not vote to certify some electors unless there was an audit of the results in disputed states. Speaking on Fox News, Sen. Ted Cruz, the leader of the effort, said the reactions to their move to challenge Biden’s victory had been exaggerated. “I think everyone needs to calm down,” Cruz said. “I think we need to tone down the rhetoric. This is already a volatile situation. It’s like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it and so I think the kind of hyperbole we’re seeing, the kind of angry language.”

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CNN anchor Jake Tapper said the network invited the 12 Senate Republicans who said they would object to certifying the Electoral College votes, but none of them agreed to be interviewed. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators called on their colleagues to accept the results and move on. “At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results,” the senators said. The group is made up of GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Mitt Romney (Utah); Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Mark Warner (Virginia), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire), Dick Durbin (Illinois); and independent Sen. Angus King (Maine). “It is time to move forward,” they said.

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