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Pitching his qualifications for president, Gov. Scott Walker often cites how he faced 100,000 protesters who fought unsuccessfully to stop Act 10, the 2011 collective bargaining reform law that led to his historic recall election.
But sometimes the Wisconsin Republican goes further — suggesting that the throngs of pro-union demonstrators had been imported.
In the column, Milbank said Walker has a "technique of scapegoating unions for the nation’s ills" that is similar to techniques of the late Joe McCarthy, the Communist-hunting U.S. senator from Wisconsin.
Walker began his response to Cavuto by saying:
"Well, in the end, I’m used to -- you know, you’ve been up to Wisconsin, you’ve seen it firsthand. The big-government special interests, the powerful special interests, the union bosses and others, they will stop at nothing, and all their supporters out there. They brought 100,000 protesters into our state to try and intimidate us, to back us down."
We’ve been here before.
In late February 2011, during the heat of the daily protests inside and around the Capitol, Walker said "almost all" of the protesters were from outside of Wisconsin.
He made the statement in a phone conversation with a Buffalo, New York, blogger who was posing as industrialist and conservative political donor David Koch.
We rated Walker’s statement False.
There were people taking buses to Madison from Illinois, and no doubt some protesters came from other states. But we found no evidence that the vast majority of demonstrators came from outside of Wisconsin.
Indeed, there was criticism of the number of public employees in Wisconsin who took off work to participate in the rallies. On Feb. 18, 2011, some schools around the state shut down because so many teachers heeded the call of their union leaders to descend upon Madison.
Fast forward to today.
We asked Walker’s campaign for evidence that 100,000 protesters were brought into Wisconsin. The campaign cited isolated reports of demonstrators being bused in from Illinois and New York, but nothing more comprehensive.
For the record, it’s clear tens of thousands of protesters participated in some of the daily demonstrations, but less clear whether the crowds ever reached 100,000.
In their book "More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions and the Fight for Wisconsin," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Jason Stein and Patrick Marley noted that on Feb. 19, 2011, thousands of tea party backers joined the protesters in order to show support for Walker. Madison police estimated the overall crowd that day, a Saturday, at 68,000.
The crowd the following Saturday was estimated at 70,000, "definitely one of the largest and most sustained demonstrations we've ever seen," a Madison police spokesman told reporters at the time. He said the total could have been as high as 100,000, but counting was difficult because the demonstration was spread over a large area surrounding the Capitol Square.
Madison police officer Kim Alan told us that some busloads of union supporters made no secret of the fact that they had come from out of state. But she said her department did not attempt to discern what portion of the protesters overall were from outside of Wisconsin.
Walker said his political opponents "brought 100,000 protesters into our state."
In early 2011, tens of thousands of protesters — and perhaps as many as 100,000 on some days — participated in daily demonstrations near the state Capitol to protest Walker’s collective bargaining reform law.
But there is no evidence to indicate that all or nearly all were from outside of Wisconsin.
We rate Walker’s statement False.
More on Scott Walker
For profiles and stories on Scott Walker and 2016 presidential politics, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Scott Walker page.
Fox News, video of "Your World" interview of Gov. Scott Walker (quote at 5:30), July 27, 2015
Email exchange, Gov. Scott Walker campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong, July 30, 2015
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says out-of-staters account for ‘almost all’ in Madison protests," Feb. 23, 2011
Google Books, "More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions and the Fight for Wisconsin," page 142
Interview, Madison Police Department officer Kim Allen, July 30, 2015
USA Today, "Police: Wisconsin protest Saturday ‘one of largest,’" Feb. 27, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Protesting teachers force some schools to cancel class," Feb. 18, 2011
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