Home / News / Death of a Legislator: Dan Johnson’s Suicide and the GOP’s Far-Right Drift

Death of a Legislator: Dan Johnson’s Suicide and the GOP’s Far-Right Drift

Former Kentucky Rep. Dan Johnson.
Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

While the inhabitant press is focused on how the #MeToo transformation is inspiring Congress, state and city governments have also experienced a swell of women accusing politicians of passionate nuisance and abuse. Kentucky has been generally jarred by this, with at slightest 4 Republican state legislators and a Democratic city councilman being publicly accused of passionate nuisance in the past couple of months.

But the story took a quite hideous turn after a fifth statehouse Republican, Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson, took his own life last Wednesday. That came shortly after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a blockbuster exposé of Johnson’s disturbing history, including allegations that he molested a 17-year-old member of his Heart of Fire congregation, where he was a minister.

This whole contemptible event is already being disfigured by regressive pundits to disprove the #MeToo movement. Kathleen Parker asks either Johnson had “a right to some arrange of unfeeling hearing,” ignoring the fact that the purported victim went to the police, to no avail. A deeper demeanour into Johnson’s career, however, suggests a opposite moral: It illustrates the multiplying problem of radical fundamentalists sensitively infiltrating internal state governments.


Roy Moore may have lost his possibility to be the U.S. senator from Alabama — if by an agonizingly slight margin. But dozens of mini-Moores are multiplying in state legislatures, where they are pulling the Republican Party ever serve to the right and sensitively operative to idle women’s entrance to reproductive health care.

While the seduction allegations against Johnson have been the focus, R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting also unclosed a dizzying volume of disturbing information about Johnson that should have been disqualifying prolonged before those accusations came to light. The man was a criminal artist who told lies about his own autobiography so vast they frequency indispensable fact-checking. He had regularly been in difficulty with the law for using an illegal bar out of his church, and over several apparent arson incidents. During the 2016 election, he posted nonconformist memes portraying Barack and Michelle Obama as monkeys and won his election over Democrat Linda Belcher anyway.

“I consider that led him to trust there were lots of things he could do, nonetheless his folks would still support him,” Marcie Crim, executive executive of the Kentucky Health Justice Network, told Salon. 

When his Republicans colleagues came under fire in Nov for passionate nuisance allegations, Johnson took to Facebook to offer a defense, writing, “I’m totally against anything that has to do with abuse, however there are no ideal people.”

Crim was not astounded by this, saying that both passionate abuse and anti-choice beliefs branch from an rejection to “believe that women’s bodies go to the women.” Essentially, she said, worried men wish to hold women “whenever they want, and they also wish to tell them what kind of health caring they can and can’t get entrance to.”

Johnson wasn’t just anti-abortion, which is standard for the march in Republican politics. He was a radical anti-choice fanatic. He appears to have been closely operative with Operation Save America, an nonconformist Christian classification that pushes what it calls the “doctrine of the obtuse magistrates,” which holds that Christians shouldn’t obey laws that they trust dispute with God’s laws. It’s the same speculation used to accelerate the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign matrimony licenses for same-sex couples. Now it is being used to disagree that sovereign laws safeguarding termination rights need not be respected.

In October, Johnson pre-filed a piece of designed legislation called the Abolition of Abortion Act, which would have criminalized termination in Kentucky both for doctors and patients. The due bill explicitly educated the state to make this anathema “regardless of any discordant or opposing state or sovereign laws, executive regulations, executive orders, or legal decisions.” It appears Johnson was trying to put this “lesser magistrate” thought into law.

In an romantic video released before Johnson committed suicide – but after the allegations of passionate bungle had emerged – Rusty Thomas, the conduct of Operation Save America, blamed the “sexual revolution” for passionate harassment, saying, “God is lifting the dress of the inhabitant whoredoms.”

Thomas went on to urge both Johnson and Roy Moore, saying that the “establishment will spend millions of dollars to puncture up dirt” and that it has “successfully weaponized sex as a domestic weapon” to publicly shame those “seeking to mount for goodness and for sanctity in the nation.”

Thomas, it’s worth noting, spends his days organizing protests outward termination clinics that are meant to publicly shame women seeking abortion. Johnson himself showed up at one of these protests and was photographed by hospital escorts.

In the video, Thomas calls Johnson “the congressman we have been operative with to deliver a check of abolitions.” This comports with what Rewire reporter Jenn Stanley detected while operative on her audio documentary “Marching Toward Gilead.” She called Johnson to ask him about his anti-abortion bill, and he had Joseph Spurgeon, a priest who works with Operation Save America, call her back within seconds. 

“I didn’t tell Dan Johnson that this was a story about Operation Save America,” Stanley told Salon. “So Joseph Spurgeon must be a man he sends out to speak to reporters.” Spurgeon and Thomas have also pronounced they tried to call and content Johnson to forestall him from committing suicide, to no avail. 

(Full disclosure: My partner was an executive author on Stanley’s documentary.)

Operation Save America was the organisation that spent decades badgering Dr. George Tiller, an termination provider in Wichita, Kansas, until a unchanging hospital protester murdered him in 2009. When another hospital non-stop in the place of Tiller’s, Thomas declared, “OSA has some unprepared dominion business in Wichita, Kansas. Tiller’s indent was reopened.”

But the categorical concentration of Operation Save America has been the last remaining termination hospital in Kentucky, which has been theme to the illegal hospital blockades that the groupused in the ’90s but deserted for many years — until now. The organisation has been open about its enterprise to make Kentucky the home of the radical anti-abortion movement, generally now that it believes Donald Trump’s presidency has eased the trail for some-more belligerent tactics.

The attribute between Johnson and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin also shines some light onto the domestic dynamics that are permitting Republicans to chip divided at termination entrance in red states. As Crim argued, people like Johnson “would have been border characters two years ago, 5 years ago, but now they’re getting inaugurated to office.” 

Once in, legislators like Johnson welcome extreme and blatantly illegal positions, such as an bid to reclassify termination as murder. This creates politicians like Bevin, whose strategy is to use ginned-up regulations to bury termination clinics under red tape, demeanour assuage by comparison. But in reality, as Crim put it, “The border has turn the mainstream.”

There’s only one termination hospital left in Kentucky, since Planned Parenthood was incompetent to get hospital send agreements compulsory by a recently-passed (and medically unnecessary) law blatantly dictated to close down as many clinics as possible. Planned Parenthood says it has evidence showing that Bevin used defunding threats to forestall hospitals from assisting Planned Parenthood follow the law.

There is also reason to trust that Bevin’s loyal sympathies distortion with extremists like Dan Johnson and Operation Save America. In February, Bevin held a assembly with the leaders of Operation Save America, who contend they gave him the book “Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates” by Matt Trewhella, a priest who has argued that murdering termination doctors is justified. The group’s leaders serve claimed Bevin had praised the book, even as he demurred on the doubt of signing legislation to systematise termination as murder.

(Bevin’s bureau and Operation Save America both unsuccessful to return Salon’s requests for comment.)

Stanley and Crim both told Salon that this whole conditions highlights how easy it is for radicalized right-wingers to get energy in state legislatures and start pulling a state’s politics to the right.

“Most people just have no thought who their state member are. People don’t go up to opinion for that,” Stanley said. That creates the state legislature fruitful belligerent for extremists to build a energy base. “When you consider about the things that really impact people’s personal lives,” she continued, “it’s the laws that are upheld by these state legislators.”

Johnson’s death has positively rattled the far-right fundamentalists who upheld him, but it doesn’t seem to be negligence down their efforts to pull their absolutist bulletin by the Kentucky legislature. Even before Johnson’s death, his supporters were essay off the passionate abuse allegations as a politicized distortion combined by the “establishment” and mostly ignoring the crowd of shocking claims about Johnson’s prolonged story of fabrications. The day after Johnson’s death, his widow, Rebecca Johnson, announced plans to run for his legislative seat. “These high-tech lynchings formed on lies and half-truths can’t be allowed to win the day,” she declared.

“People like to contend it’s the last, failing pant of prior generations,” Crim pronounced of the arise of the distant right in state legislatures. “And maybe it is the last pant — but it’s a big gasp. It’s a very absolute exhale they’re taking.”



Amanda Marcotte is a politics author for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

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