House Censures Rep. Paul Gosar Over Posting Violent Video Depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Killing
(WASHINGTON) — The House voted Wednesday to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for posting an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword, an extraordinary rebuke that highlighted the political strains testing Washington and the country.
Calling the video a clear threat to a lawmaker’s life, Democrats argued Gosar’s conduct would not be tolerated in any other workplace — and shouldn’t be in Congress.
A vote of 223-207 voted in favor of censure of Gosar and to strip him from all his assigned committee positions. This vote was almost unanimously based on party lines.
Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the vote an “abuse of power” by Democrats to distract from national problems. He said of the censure, a “new standard will continue to be applied in the future,” a signal of potential ramifications for Democratic members in future Congresses.
Democrats also said that there wasn’t anything political.
“These actions demand a response. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution.”
Ocasio-Cortez herself said in an emotional speech, “Our work here matters. Our example matters. Service has meaning. We, as leaders, can encourage violence by depicting our coworkers. And that is where we must draw the line.”
Unrepentant, Gosar rejected what he called the “mischaracterization” that the cartoon was “dangerous or threatening. It was not.”
“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. Never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” Gosar said.
He compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, celebrated in recent years in a Broadway musical, whose censure vote in the House was defeated: “If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it, it is done.”
The decision to censure Gosar, one of the strongest punishments the House can dole out, was just the fourth in nearly 40 years — and just the latest example of the raw tensions that have roiled Congress since the 2020 election and the violent Capitol insurrection that followed.
The Democratic frustration over the House GOP’s inability to publicly criticize Gosar (who has a long history of offensive remarks) led to the determination to go ahead with the effort.
GOP leaders largely ignored him and encouraged their members not to support the resolution. A warning was also issued that Democrats could be harmed if the precedent is set by the attempt.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said, “I would just suggest we have better things to do on the floor of the House of Representatives than be the hall monitors for Twitter.”
This resolution will eliminate Gosar’s membership in two committees, Natural Resources and Oversight and Reform. Ocasio Cortez serves on both panels, which limits his ability to influence legislation and provide constituent service. This resolution says that violent depictions may lead to violence or compromise safety of elected officials. It cites the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2006.
Gosar is the 24th member of the House to be censured. Though it carries no practical effect, except to provide a historic footnote that marks a lawmaker’s career, it is the strongest punishment the House can issue short of expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote.
Charles Rangel (Democratic Representative) was the ex-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He received the most recent rebuke for financial misconduct in 2010.
This would be the second year in a row that the House initiated the expulsion of a GOP lawmaker form an assigned committee. The first was Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia.
Gosar, a six-term congressman, posted the video over a week ago with a note saying, “Any anime fans out there?” The roughly 90-second video was an altered version of a Japanese anime clip, interspersed with shots of Border Patrol officers and migrants at the southern U.S. border.
In a 10-second segment, animated characters with faces that had been changed to Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) were seen fighting each other. Gosar’s character is seen striking another one made to look like Ocasio-Cortez in the neck with a sword. Also, he attacks President Joe Biden.
Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who received repeated death threats and had to spend thousands of security money, stated that Gosar has never apologized for her. McCarthy was singled out for her inability to condemn Gosar.
“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor Wednesday. “This is not about me. It’s not about Representative Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) was among the few Republicans who said he would vote for censure Gosar.
“We have to hold Members accountable who incite or glorify violence, who spread and perpetuate dangerous conspiracies. The failure to do so will take us one step closer to this fantasized violence becoming real,” Kinzinger tweeted.
This is not the first brush with controversy for Gosar, who was first elected in 2010’s tea party wave. Six of his siblings have appeared in ads for his Democratic opponent, and he has been repeatedly criticised by them.
Earlier this year Gosar looked to form an America First Caucus with other hardline Republican House members that aimed to promote “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” while warning that mass immigration was putting the “unique identity” of the U.S. at risk. He’s made appearances at fringe right-wing events, including a 2018 rally in London for a jailed British activist who repeatedly spread anti-Muslim views and a gathering in Florida last February hosted by Nick Fuentes, an internet personality who has promoted white supremacist beliefs.
He has also portrayed a woman shot by Capitol police during the attack on the Capitol as a martyr, claiming she was “executed.” And he falsely suggested that a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was instigated by “the left” and backed by billionaire George Soros, a major funder of liberal causes who has become the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Farnoush Alimiri and Alan Fram of the Associated Press contributed to this article.