Johnson backs away from sunspot claim - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Johnson backs away from sunspot claim


By Bob Schaper - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) - Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ron Johnson says his views on global warming and sunspots have been taken out of context.

We told you last week how Johnson said solar activity was the more likely cause of climate change. But on Saturday he not only reopened the issue of global warming, but said he was also misunderstood when it came to the deduction for home mortgage interest.

Both are just the latest in a string of issues involving Johnson's campaign -- issues that one expert called rookie mistakes.

"I think solar activity, maybe that's a better word to use, whether it's sunspots, solar flares, whatever, would probably be more likely to be the cause of climate change over the eons of geologic time than man-made Co2 emissions," Johnson said.

That was last week.

Today, Johnson campaign spokeswoman Sara Sendek wrote in an e-mail, "It has been misconstrued to say that Ron believes sunspots are the sole cause for global warming ... He  has never made a statement that say sunspots are unequivocally to blame for global warming."

"A lot of rookie candidates for office make rookie mistakes," says UW political professor Charles Franklin, who says the recent coverage of Johnson's remarks has been fair.

Franklin says Johnson's skepticism about man-made global warming is widely shared.

"But then when he picked specifically sunspots as a cause for this it created a problem for him and now he's tried to backtrack and say well I was really talking about the broad picture," Franklin said.

Also today, Johnson sought to clarify his position on the home mortgage interest deduction. When we interviewed him last week we asked if he agreed with some in congress who want to reduce or even eliminate the deduction. He said his main goal was to reduce tax rates and simplify the tax code.

But then he added, "If that means horse trading with reduction of certain deductions I'm willing to take a look at all of the options."

Today his campaign said Johnson supports the interest deduction, and Sendek says, "To say that he wants to horse trade mortgage interest deductions is your own conclusion that does not accurately reflect Ron's position."

"This is a fairly typical example of a candidate for office saying something that they subsequently regret and trying to backtrack it some," Franklin said.

Johnson has faced other controversies, too, including comments he's made about gun licensing, drilling for oil, and whether he would sell his shares of BP.

Still, Franklin says whatever mistakes Johnson's made haven't been fatal.

"After all, Ronald Reagan said trees cause pollution and it didn't stop him from getting elected president twice," Franklin said.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats have pounced on the sunspot issue, saying he's distorting reality. They also dispute Johnson's assertion last week that Greenland was so named because it used to be green. They say Greenland got its name as part of a marketing scheme to attract settlers.

Johnson faces fellow Republicans Dave Westlake and Stephen Finn in the Sept. 14 primary. The winner will take on incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat.

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