Last fall, a fundie pastor running as a Republican candidate for the Kentucky House of Representatives turned heads when he posted horribly racist caricatures of Barack and Michelle Obama to his Facebook page. That proved too much even for the Kentucky GOP, who tried to throw him overboard. Despite this, he still won amid the massive Republican wave that swept through the Bluegrass State.
Well, it looks like the bill may be finally coming due for this truly deplorable lawmaker. One of his former parishioners says that he sexually assaulted her.
Dan Johnson, the self-proclaimed bishop and “pope” of Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, turned heads last October when he posted a number of memes depicting the Obamas as monkeys. His excuse? They were merely “entertaining.” At the time, Johnson was running for a state house seat in Bullitt County, south of Louisville. To their credit, the Kentucky GOP disavowed him and tried to get him to drop out of the race–to no avail.
Even in the face of this, he defeated three-term Democratic incumbent Linda Belcher by 156 votes–undoubtedly helped by Donald Trump carrying the district by a punishing 72-23 margin over Hillary Clinton. His victory was one of many that allowed the GOP to flip the House of Representatives from a 53-46 deficit to a 64-36 majority, allowing them to take complete control of state government for the first time since 1922.
It initially looked like Johnson was settled in for at least a two-year run in the statehouse. But that may have changed with an explosive report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, a Kentucky version of ProPublica operated by Louisville’s NPR member, Louisville Public Media. It portrays a man who plays fast and loose with the truth in a way that would do Trump proud. In the past, Johnson claims to have served as White House chaplain, been on the front lines for the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, and been endorsed by Ted Nugent. These stories, and others, have all been proven to be lies.
But the most staggering anecdote comes from Maranda Richmond, a former member of Heart of Fire. She claimed that on New Year’s Eve 2012, a drunken Johnson–whom she once considered her “second dad”–forcibly kissed and groped her before sodomizing her with his finger. She finally told her parents in April 2013. However, when they were unable to get Johnson to confess on tape, the police dropped the case without even interviewing Johnson. After KyCIR started asking questions, however, police reopened the case.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, both major parties in the Commonwealth apparently believe KyCIR’s report speaks for itself, because they rushed out with burning statements calling for Johnson to step down. State party chairman Mac Brown said that after reading KyCIR’s “extensively sourced and documented story,” state party officials “once again find ourselves in a position where we must call for him (Johnson) to resign.” Contrast this with their Alabama counterparts, who wasted little time circling the wagons around Roy Moore when allegations surfaced that he molested women and pursued girls young enough to be his daughters.
The state house Republican leadership–Speaker David Osborne, Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, and caucus chairman David Meade–issued a statement of their own calling Richmond’s account “compelling and deeply troubling,” and believed it was enough to demand that Johnson resign.
The Kentucky Democratic Party also turned up the heat on Johnson. State party executive director Mary Nishimuta called for Johnson to go, and now.
Statement from Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Nishimuta concerning Rep. Dan Johnson. pic.twitter.com/umql8ZAT9V
— KY Democratic Party (@KyDems) December 11, 2017
The party has also started a petition calling for Johnson to step down immediately; sign here.
For now, anyway, Johnson has no intention of backing down. He held a press conference at his church on Tuesday morning. Watch a clip from WHAS-TV in Louisville here.
Taking a page from Moore’s playbook, Johnson claimed the report was “an assault on real people” by “political hacks.” Uh huh. So Richmond is a “political hack”?
Johnson may have more fundamental worries than just his state house seat. Former Jefferson County (Louisville) commonwealth’s attorney David Stengel told KyCIR that Louisville Metro Police erred when they initially investigated Richmond’s complaint as third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor. Based on the facts that have emerged about this apparent “#MeToo” moment, Stengel believes this is first-degree sexual abuse, a felony. He noted that felony sexual abuse occurs when an authority figure molests a minor. The statute specifically defines a “religious leader” as an authority figure.
The long and the short of it is that if Johnson is tried and convicted of felony sexual abuse, he will automatically lose his seat. That is, of course, if the state house doesn’t expel him first. Based on what we know about this case, if Johnson isn’t willing to go on his own, both parties need to be at least thinking about expelling him. It would more than make up for the fact that Johnson should have never been in the legislature in the first place.
(featured image courtesy Kentucky Legislative Research Commission via Lexington Herald-Leader)