House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) once said then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s temperament made him unfit to be president, calling his “hot head” nature “dangerous” in a 2015 Facebook post unearthed by the New York Times Tuesday—hours before Johnson, now a staunch Trump ally, publicly endorsed Trump’s 2024 White House bid.
Johnson, then a Louisiana state lawmaker, said Trump did not have the right demeanor to be president, writing that he “lacks the character and moral center we desperately need again in the White House,” calling Trump a “hot head by nature” and questioning, in a “halfway” joking manner, what could happen if he “decided to bomb another head of state merely disrespecting him?”
The lengthy posts came shortly after one of Trump’s most controversial debate performances, when then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump about referring to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” to which Trump responded “only Rosie O’Donnell.”
Johnson was watching the debate with his 10-year-old son, who looked at him “with a sort of confused disappointment, as the leader of all polls boasted about calling a woman a ‘fat pig,’” Johnson wrote, adding “can you imagine the noble, selfless characters of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln or Reagan carrying on like Trump did last night?”
Johnson walked back the comments in a statement to the Times Monday night, and publicly endorsed Trump in a CNBC interview Tuesday morning, calling himself “one of the closest allies that President Trump had in Congress,” adding “I’m all in for President Trump.”
He also predicted Trump would become the party’s nominee and win the 2024 general election: “We have to make Biden a one-term president,” he said, asserting that Trump “had a phenomenal first term,” citing his economic policies.
The speaker attributed his previous criticism of Trump to their “very different” styles and told the Times he made the post before he personally knew the former president and has since grown “to appreciate the person that he is and the qualities about him that made him the extraordinary president that he was.”
“Since we met, we have always had a very good and friendly relationship,” Johnson told the Times about Trump. “The president and I enjoy working together, and I look forward to doing so again when he returns to the White House.”
Trump did not formally endorse Johnson for speaker, but urged Republicans to back him amid criticism of the Republican Party for failing to come to an agreement on a new speaker nearly three weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was removed, grinding Congress to a halt. Trump’s influence loomed large over the speaker’s race, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) bid fell apart shortly after Trump cast doubts about his abilities, as did Rep. Tom Emmer’s (R-Minn.). Trump’s initial pick to become speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), failed to secure the votes he needed to win as his high profile as a right-wing firebrand was seen as a difficult vote for Republicans in swing districts. Johnson is also firmly aligned with Trump, but his relative anonymity, both publicly and in Congress, was seen as a boon to his speaker bid.
Johnson played a pivotal role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. A former constitutional lawyer, Johnson presented Republican lawmakers with a theory many cited in voting against certifying the Electoral College votes, claiming the results were invalid in multiple states, because they had unconstitutionally altered their election laws in the lead-up to the 2020 contest. He also authored an amicus brief, co-signed by 125 other Republicans, in a case filed by the Texas attorney general seeking to overturn the election results in several states. And he served on Trump’s congressional defense team during his first impeachment trial.