Election denier, climate skeptic, anti-abortion: seven beliefs of new US House speaker Mike Johnson

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Mike Johnson’s emergence as the new speaker of the US House of Representatives has earned the relatively little-known Louisiana Republican a turn in the national spotlight.

Related: Republicans heckle reporter for asking about efforts to overturn 2020 election

In turn, that spotlight has illuminated positions and remarks many deem extreme.

He tried to overturn the 2020 election

In the modern Republican party, supporting ’s lie about voter fraud in his defeat by is hardly an outlandish position. But Johnson took it further.

After the election, he voiced support for Trump’s conspiracy theory that voting machines were rigged. Later, he was one of 147 Republicans to object to results in key states, even after a pro-Trump mob attacked Congress on January 6, a riot now linked to nine deaths and hundreds of convictions.



Johnson also authored an amicus brief filed to the supreme court in a case in which Texas sought to have swing-state results thrown out. According to the New York Times, a House Republican lawyer said Johnson’s brief was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, he persuaded 125 colleagues to sign it, using tactics some thought heavy handed.

The supreme court refused to take the case. On Tuesday, Johnson refused to take a question about his work on Trump’s behalf – smiling as fellow Republicans booed and jeered the reporter.

He was a spokesperson for a ‘hate group’

Before entering politics, Johnson worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom – designated a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center, which tracks US extremists.

According to the SPLC, the ADF has “supported the recriminalisation of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ+ adults in the US and criminalisation abroad; defended state-sanctioned sterilisation of trans people abroad; contended that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to engage in paedophilia; and claimed that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society”.

On Wednesday, the ADF senior counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, denied the organisation was a hate group and attacked the SPLC designation as partisan.

“The truth is, Alliance Defending Freedom is among the largest and most effective legal advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans,” he said.

He opposes LGBTQ+ rights

In state politics and at the national level, Johnson has worked to claw back gains made by LGBTQ+ Americans in their fight for equality.

In 2016, as he ran for Congress, he told the Louisiana Baptist Message he had “been out on the front lines of the ‘culture war’ defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and biblical values, including the defense of traditional marriage, and other ideals like these when they’ve been under assault”. He has since led efforts for a national “don’t say gay” bill, regarding the teaching of LGBTQ+ issues in schools, and is also opposed to gender-affirming care for children.

On Wednesday, Rev Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said: “Johnson has made a career out of attacking the LGBTQ+ community at every turn. His positions are out of touch with the clear majority support for LGBTQ+ equality in our country. His new leadership role is just further proof of the dangerous priorities of the GOP and the critical stakes for our democracy – and for LGBTQ+ Americans – in 2024.”

He is stringently anti-abortion

Johnson has maintained a relatively low profile in Congress but when last year the supreme court removed the right to abortion, Johnson celebrated “a historic and joyful day”.

Though Dobbs v Jackson returned abortion rights to the states, Johnson has co-sponsored bills for a nationwide ban. And as he neared his position of power, footage spread of striking remarks in a House hearing. “Roe v Wade did constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America, period,” Johnson said.

You think about the implications on the economy. We’re all struggling here to cover the bases of social security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this … I will not yield I will not. Roe was a terrible corruption of America’s constitutional jurisprudence.”

He wants to cut social security and Medicare

As those comments indicate, Johnson wants to cut programs on which millions rely. Such cuts are widely regarded as a political third-rail – Trump has used the issue to attack Republican presidential rivals, saying only he will defend such benefits – but Johnson is far from alone in wanting to swing the axe.

He is an advocate for ‘covenant marriage’

When he married his wife, Kelly, in 1999, the couple agreed to a “covenant” marriage: a conservative Christian idea that makes it harder to divorce. The Johnsons promoted the idea on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“My own parents are divorced,” Johnson said. “As anyone who goes through that knows, that was a traumatic thing for our whole family. I’m a big proponent of marriage and fidelity and all the things that go with it, and I’ve seen first-hand the devastation [divorce] can cause.”

He is a climate skeptic

In 2017, Johnson told voters in his oil-rich home state: “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive SUVs? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.”

He has also opposed proposals for a Green New Deal and been named an “energy champion” by the American Energy Alliance, a rightwing group that has defended fossil fuel use.

… and progressives are alarmed

On Wednesday, Democrats and progressives greeted Johnson’s ascent with criticism – and opposition research.

Tony Carrk, executive director of the watchdog Accountable.US, called Johnson “a far-right extremist who led a desperate attempt to subvert democracy … [who] boasts a voting record deeming him one of the most extreme members of the Republican conference.

“A Speaker Johnson means more of the same from the Maga [pro-Trump] majority: pointless partisan political stunts, peddling dangerous conspiracies and ultimately undermining American democracy.”

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