Mike Johnson explains his ‘adopted’ Black son’s low profile

Mr Johnson, who is white, has publicly described his relationship with Michael, who is Black, in the context of race

Kelly Rissman
Sunday 29 October 2023 19:49 GMT
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Mike Johnson addresses congress for first time as House speaker

After questions bubbled up around why the new House Speaker Mike Johnson’s “adopted” Black son has been largely absent from his public life, the Louisiana Republican offered an explanation.

Since winning the speakership, Rep Johnson’s personal life has come into the spotlight, as some have noticed that his adopted son Michael was not pictured in a family portrait posted on the Republican’s official site. The congressman’s bio also doesn’t mention him: “Mike and his wife Kelly, a former school teacher from Webster Parish and now a Licensed Pastoral Counselor, have been married since 1999 and have four children, Hannah, Abigail, Jack and Will.”

Mr Johnson, who is white, has publicly described his relationship with Michael, who is Black, in the context of race.

“I have walked with him through discrimination that he has had to endure over the years and the hurdles he sometimes faced,” he said in 2019 while testifying against reparations for slavery. “I know all this because I was with him.” He added that his son also opposed reparations because it strayed from an “important tradition of self-reliance.”

Mike Johnson’s family
Mike Johnson’s family (Congressman Mike Johnson official site)

After the death of George Floyd, the Louisiana congressman once again mentioned Michael, this time in order to compare his experience to that of his biological son, Jack. He said during a 2020 PBS interview: “Michael being a Black American and Jack being white Caucasian. They have different challenges. My son Jack has an easier path. He just does.”

He has even compared his and his wife’s decision to take “custody” of Michael decades ago to “The Blind Side.” In the same interview, he asked the host: ‘Have you seen the story ‘The Blind Side’? That was our story, except my Michael was not an NFL prospect…we took him in as our own.”

Now, under intense scrutiny in his new gig, he was forced to address the absence of his son, who he previously talked about so frequently.

“When Speaker Johnson first ran for Congress in 2016, he and his wife, Kelly, spoke to their son Michael—who they took in as newlyweds when Michael was 14 years old,” Mr Johnson’s Communications Director Corinne Day told Newsweek.

“At the time of the Speaker’s election to Congress, Michael was an adult with a family of his own. He asked not to be involved in their new public life. The Speaker has respected that sentiment throughout his career and maintains a close relationship with Michael to this day.”

The Independent has reached out to Speaker Johnson’s office for comment.

Little is known about the new House Speaker’s son. It’s not clear whether his last name is Johnson — or if he was ever officially adopted.

When the PBS interviewer described Michael as “adopted,” Mr Johnson did not take issue with that description. However, Ms Day clarified that the Johnsons did not formally adopt Michael because of the “lengthy adoption process,” according to the New York Times.

In the 2020 interview, Mr Johnson explained that Michael was in his mid-30s and lived in California with four children. Rep Johnson said, “He shares his testimony that, were it not for our intervention in his life, that he would certainly have joined a gang, gotten on drugs, wound up in prison, or dead on the street somewhere. And that’s the harsh reality that we have here.”

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