House votes to censure GOP Rep. Gosar over violent video

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The House voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar after the Arizona Republican posted a violent cartoon video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and attacking President Biden.

The resolution passed 223-207, with just two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — joining all 221 Democrats voting in favor of Gosar’s censure. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, who sits on the House Ethics Committee, voted “present.” Three Republicans did not vote.

The measure stripped Gosar of his committee assignments, including a seat on the House Oversight Committee, a panel on which he had served alongside Ocasio-Cortez.

Last week the anime-style video that featured him slashing Ocasio-Cortez in the back of the neck and attacking the president was posted to Gosar’s social media accounts.

Side-by-side photos showing the faces of Paul Gosar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Reps. Paul Gosar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Bill Clark/Pool/Reuters, J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

“Any anime fans out there?” Gosar’s Twitter account asked. The clip altered the opening credits of the Japanese animated series “Attack on Titan” and included clips of Border Patrol agents.

Twitter placed a “public interest notice” on the video for violating its policy of hateful conduct, while Instagram flagged it for potentially containing “graphic or violent content.”

Gosar was immediately condemned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, who called for his removal from Congress..

“Threatening the life of a colleague is grounds for expulsion,” she said earlier this week.

"For a member of Congress to post a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden is a clear cut case for censure," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who introduced the resolution.

After a call from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Gosar deleted the video and issued a statement saying he does not “espouse violence or harm towards any member of Congress or Mr. Biden.” He also insisted that the video was “a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy” and that the backlash to it was “infantile.” But he did not apologize.

“It is a symbolic cartoon,” Gosar said in his statement. “It is not real life.”

Speaking on the floor prior to the final vote, Pelosi called it a “sad day for the House of Representatives, but a necessary day.”

Pelosi drew a parallel to the deadly Capitol riot.

“Words spoken by elected officials weigh a ton; people hear them very differently,” the House speaker said. “Depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021. It is inconceivable that a member of our community would wish to repeat the violence of that dark day.”

McCarthy said Democrats were guilty of a “double standard” in censuring Gosar.

“It’s the old definition of abuse of power,” he said. “That’s exactly what’s happening here today.”

McCarthy cited numerous incendiary comments made by Democrats who were not censured.

In her own floor speech, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that none of the examples mentioned by McCarthy included “a member of Congress threatening the life of another.”

She also dismissed the idea that the video was just a joke.

“This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that many members of the Republican Party have accepted “the illusion that this was just a joke, that what we say and what we do does not matter so long as we claim a lack of meaning.”

“Would you allow depictions of violence against women, against colleagues?” she continued. “Would you allow that in your home? Do you think this should happen in a school board? In a city council? In a church? If it’s not acceptable there, why should it be acceptable here?”

Speaking on the House floor after Ocasio-Cortez, Gosar did not apologize, again saying that the video depicted “a policy battle” over immigration, and that “it was not my purpose to make anyone upset.”

He then compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.

“If I must join Alexander Hamilton — the first person attempted to be censored by this House — so be it, it is done,” Gosar said.

First elected to Congress in 2010, Gosar has consistently downplayed the violence at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, and there have been reports that he spoke with organizers of that day’s pro-Trump protests and offered them a “blanket pardon.” He also claimed that the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was organized by “an Obama sympathizer” and appeared at an event in February where white supremacy was endorsed.

Gosar was the first member of Congress to be censured since 2010, when Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., was censured after being accused of nearly a dozen ethics violations.

In being stripped of his committee assignments, Gosar joined Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who was stripped of hers by the House in February after McCarthy declined to punish her embrace of bizarre conspiracy theories and endorsement of violence against Democrats, including AOC.

In social media posts she made prior to her election in 2020, Greene appeared to endorse the execution of Pelosi, promoted the idea that school shootings were false flag events and espoused both antisemitic and Islamophobic views.

In January 2019, Republican leadership stripped Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, of his assignments after he questioned why white supremacy was considered offensive. King subsequently lost the Republican primary for his seat the following year.