Rep. Paul Gosar sparked his first social-media muddle of the new year after tweeting a doctored picture on Monday of former President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in which he seemed not to realize the foreign leader remains in power.
Gosar, a five-term Arizona Republican, published on his personal Twitter account a photo purporting to show the two leaders grinning as they held hands. Gosar wrote: "The world is a better place without these guys in power."
The world is a better place without these guys in power. pic.twitter.com/gDoXQu9vO5— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) January 6, 2020
Rouhani became president of Iran in 2013 and still holds that position as that nation weighs retaliation for the U.S. slaying last week of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq.
And the picture apparently came from a 2011 meeting Obama had with now-former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh was digitally replaced in the picture Gosar shared by Rouhani.
The Gosar tweet quickly became "ratioed," meaning far more people reacted to it with comments than shared or liked it. Within hours of the midday tweet, more than 5,000 comments were posted, with most in the Twitterverse seemingly seeing nothing clever in Gosar's message.
Many quickly noted that Gosar's siblings disagree with his political views. Others disparaged Arizonans for sending Gosar to Congress.
Walter Shaub, who headed the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under Obama, weighed in disapprovingly.
"It's disgusting that a U.S. representative would disseminate misinformation like this," he wrote in a tweet.
Gosar later sought to deflect criticism with more tweets disparaging those who ridiculed him, especially in the media.
"To the dim witted reporters ... no one said this wasn’t photoshopped. No one said the president of Iran was dead. No one said Obama met with Rouhani in person. The tweet says: 'the world is a better place without either of them in power'.
"The point remains to all but the dimmest: Obama coddled, appeased, nurtured and protected the worlds No. 1 sponsor of terror. The world is better without Obama as president. The world will be better off without Rouhani."
The controversy swirling around Gosar is nothing new. In recent months he seemingly has been relishing the role of conservative online provocateur.
On Christmas Eve, he tweeted a video clip of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton and wife, Hillary Clinton, during a 1992 interview in which a studio light almost fell on Hillary Clinton, who exclaimed, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!"
In November, Gosar tweeted a series of messages in which the first letter spelled out "Epstein didn't kill himself," seemingly endorsing the conspiracy theory that accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein didn't hang himself while awaiting trial.
Gosar subsequently suggested that he was not serious about it.
To many, Gosar is known as the member of Congress whose siblings endorsed his opponent in the 2018 election because they view him as a political extremist. But that event was only the capstone to years of controversies.
In October 2017, Gosar suggested in an interview with "Vice News" for Home Box Office that the deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was planned by "an Obama sympathizer" and that liberal activist George Soros may have been a Nazi collaborator as a youth.
Before Trump's State of the Union speech in 2018, Gosar called for the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants who were attending the speech at the invitation of Democratic members of Congress, including from Arizona.
Before that, Gosar outlined his views on "dreamers," young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, in an interview with Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who has peddled his own widely discredited conspiracies. Gosar has said he opposes any special legal protection for those known as DACA recipients.
"Providing any lawful or legal status to DACA recipients that allows them to stay in the country and work is the definition of amnesty," he said at the time.
Gosar's Monday tweet came hours after Rouhani offered a more ominous tweet of his own.
In it, Rouhani wrote, "Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290," a reference to the 1988 downing of an Iranian commercial jet by a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf.
"Never threaten the Iranian nation," Rouhani wrote.
Trump had warned Iran via Twitter that the United States would retaliate against any Iran attacks on Americans or U.S. assets by hitting "52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture."
Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 6, 2020
Never threaten the Iranian nation.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Paul Gosar's tweet of phony photo of Obama, Rouhani stirs controversy