Ron Johnson's vaccine claims busted in brual fact-check

Ron Johnson's vaccine claims busted in brual fact-check
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Gage Skidmore

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) is being lambasted by fact-checkers yet again for circulating false claims. A new piece published by The Houston Chronicle's Laura Schulte lays out the remarks made by the Republican senator and fact-checkers rebuttal torching his baseless claims.

This particular ordeal centers on Johnson's January 26, 2022, appearance on "The Charlie Kirk Show." At the time, Johnson and Kirk discussed COVID vaccines.

"We’ve heard story after story. All these athletes dropping dead on the field," he said during a conversation about the possible adverse effects of COVID vaccines. "But we’re supposed to ignore that. Nothing happening here, nothing to see. This is a travesty, this is a scandal."

Schulte immediately zeroed in on Johnson's exaggerated claim about athletes "dropping dead on the field."

"Is Johnson right?" Schulte asked as she immediately followed with a sharp answer to the question with a resounding, "No."

She continued, "Let’s take a closer look."

In wake of Johnson's outlandish remarks, he was asked to provide evidence of his claim. His spokeswoman Vanessa Ambrosini reportedly told The Houston Chronicle that Johnson "has been alarmed by stories he has heard of athletes dying on the field."

"The Senator’s point in raising these issues," Ambrosini said via email, "has always been that our federal health agencies should be concerned about reports on adverse reactions related to COVID-19 vaccines and they should fully investigate and make their findings available to the American people."

While Schulte did acknowledge the validity of those remarks, she argued the specifics of Johnson's remarks. "The claim was that there are stories about all sorts of athletes dying in the midst of competition, or at least while practicing," she specified.

Although Johnson has a tendency to cite information from the federal database documenting adverse events, Schulte noted that "the database itself notes the claims are not vetted to establish a cause between them."

Patrick Remington —a former epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and director for the preventive medicine residency program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison— offered a detailed explanation of what the CDC actually looks for: "causation, not just coincidence"

"The burden is on credible scientists to study whether vaccination could be associated with this outcome, and no credible science exists to say it is," he said. "We continue to do ongoing surveillance, the vaccine surveillance system is in place to study any possible associations that come up. But to date, I am not aware of any studies or any credible research that suggests that vaccines cause death in young athletes."

Ambrosini also provided a copy of an article published by that suggests "hundreds" of young athletes have died as a result of vaccine complications. "We found no proof of a causal relationship in any of the cases between the vaccines and the injuries or deaths," the fact-check refuted Johnson's claim confirming there were 6 deaths.

Another fact check also broke the claim down. Schulte noted: "Days before Johnson took to the Charlie Kirk Show, former NBA All-Star John Stockton on Jan. 23 2022 claimed more than 100 professional athletes who were vaccinated have dropped dead "right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court."

PolitiFact National along with a group of doctors, have also pushed back.

"PolitiFact National rated this False in a Jan. 26, 2022 fact-check. In it, Matthew Martinez, a sports cardiologist with the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer and who is director of sports cardiology at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey said he was not aware of a single COVID vaccine-related cardiac complication in professional sports."

The same report went on to address misinformation about the risk of myocarditis; a claim Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also misstated.

As for Johnson's false claim, The Houston Chronicle rated it as "false" and offered an explanation of why.

"There is also the obvious problem with those cases, as they relate to supporting Johnson’s claim, so far as that the two athletes are not, well, dead," Schulte wrote.

In conclusion, she wrote, "Finally, health experts have also said that no research shows the link between sudden death incidents in sports players and vaccines."

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