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Vos calls recall organizers ‘whack jobs’ and ‘morons’

The attacks were the sharpest yet from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who plans to challenge the recall petitions filed against him

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos addresses a WisPolitics forum in Madison.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, addresses a WisPolitics forum in Madison on March 19, 2024. Shawn Johnson/WPR

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos unleashed a string of insults Tuesday to describe the people who organized a recall effort against him, calling them “whack jobs,” “morons” and “fraudsters” who had waged their campaign in the name of “grift.”

The attacks were some of the sharpest yet from Vos against a group of conservative activists who’ve hounded him for the better part of two years, in part because they believe he’s been insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump.

Vos, the powerful Republican from Rochester and longest serving speaker in Wisconsin Assembly history, said he believed a final review of the signatures would show that recall organizers had come up short, and had submitted fraudulent signatures in the process.

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He ridiculed their recent arguments against him, including an allegation that Vos is working for a group with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The people who organized this are so out of touch with reality,” Vos said at a WisPolitics forum in Madison. “They are morons. They are stupid. These people do not deserve the respect that anybody gave them in the media over the course of the last three, three months.”

Recall organizers did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Vos’ comments came roughly a week after organizers turned in signatures in an attempt to force a recall election, though an initial review by staff at the Wisconsin Elections Committee found they may have fallen short of the threshold needed to force an election. The six-member WEC has yet to decide whether the recall should be allowed to move forward.

Vos said volunteers for his campaign had reviewed the petitions and found numerous examples of what he alleged were fake signatures. He said he hoped Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson would review the evidence and bring charges.

“Because the only people that I have seen so far that have committed election fraud are the very people that have done this in calendar year 2024,” Vos said. “They are the ones who are the fraudsters.”

Hanson did not respond to an email from WPR asking about the claims, but she told WISN-TV she’s investigating the matter.

Once the foil of Democratic political campaigns, Vos has been the subject of repeated attacks by a group of conservatives who believe he did not do enough to overturn Trump’s 2020 presidential loss in Wisconsin.

Vos initially placated critics when he hired former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead an investigation into the 2020 election. But after Gableman called for decertification of the election — a step election law experts say is impossible — Vos distanced himself from the former justice and phased out the investigation.

Vos’ conservative critics seized the moment, backing Republican Adam Steen in a 2022 primary challenge against the speaker. With the help of Gableman and Trump himself, Steen nearly defeated Vos but came up a few hundred votes shortSteen lost a more lopsided write-in campaign that November.

Last month, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission recommended that criminal charges be brought against Trump’s Save America committee, three county Republican parties and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, for allegedly conspiring to bypass campaign finance laws to funnel money to Steen’s campaign.

Vos said the attention, and the money, was wasted energy at a time when Republicans need to work to preserve their majority in the state Legislature under new, competitive maps.

“These people are dead set on trying to help our Democratic colleagues,” Vos said. “I do not get that. But it’s a free country, they have the right to do it. And unfortunately, they convinced some rich people somewhere to invest in this effort, instead of investing in something that’s actually productive.”

Vos said the people organizing the recall are “fringey,” and the experience has led him to believe that the majority of Republicans are the same as they’ve always been.

“But we have some new people in the party. We have some people who are just misguided,” Vos said, suggesting Democrats have similar issues in their party. “And it’s up to Americans to say, ‘I want to be in the 90 percent that’s normal. I don’t want to be in the 5 percent in either end that’s crazy.’”

While Vos said after the 2022 midterm elections that the party should move away from Trump and initially endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the GOP primary, he has since endorsed Trump, saying he’s a better choice than President Joe Biden.

“When I agree with Donald Trump, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader,” Vos said. “But when he says the wrong thing, I’m also gonna say, ‘We’re Americans. We’re not supposed to all fall in line like somebody’s royalty.’”