UPDATE: House censures Rep. Paul Gosar for violent video in rare rebuke

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.
Caption
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.

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Animated clip on Twitter depicted him striking Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with sword

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.

ExploreRep. Gosar under fire for anime attacking Rep. Ocasio-Cortez

The vote to censure Gosar, and also strip him of his committee assignments, was approved by a vote of 223-207, almost entirely along 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.

But Democrats said there was nothing political about it.

“These actions demand a response. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution.”

“This is a dark and dangerous road the majority is going down. I urge you for the future of the chamber to rethink this course."

- Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee

Ocasio-Cortez herself said in an emotional speech, “Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders, in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues that trickles down to violence in this country. 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. I 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 decision to move forward with the effort was borne out of Democratic frustration with the House GOP, which declined to publicly rebuke Gosar, who has a lengthy history of incendiary remarks.

Instead, GOP leaders have largely ignored his actions and urged their members to vote against the resolution censuring him. They also warned that the effort sets a precedent that could come back to haunt Democrats if they find themselves in the minority,

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.”

The resolution will remove Gosar from two committees: Natural Resources and the Oversight and Reform panel, on which Ocasio-Cortez also serves, limiting his ability to shape legislation and deliver for constituents. It states that depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, citing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as an example.

Gosar becomes the 24th House member 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.

Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was the last to receive the rebuke in 2010 for financial misconduct.

It was the second time this year the House has initiated the removal of a GOP lawmaker from an assigned committee, the first being Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

What the video shows

Gosar 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.

During one roughly 10-second section, animated characters whose faces had been replaced with Gosar. Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, were shown fighting other animated characters. In one scene, Gosar’s character is seen striking the one made to look like Ocasio-Cortez in the neck with a sword. The video also shows him attacking President Joe Biden.

“I don't know if it was to create harm, if it was to incite violence, if it was to fuel hate, but it probably accomplished all of those things. We have an obligation to live up to the highest standards possible, but also to hold each other up to those standards. If we don't do it, then what we are doing is allowing for a new norm to be created."

- Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas

“I don’t know if it was to create harm, if it was to incite violence, if it was to fuel hate, but it probably accomplished all of those things,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “We have an obligation to live up to the highest standards possible, but also to hold each other up to those standards. If we don’t do it, then what we are doing is allowing for a new norm to be created.”

Last week, Gosar issued a statement saying the video wasn’t meant to depict harm or violence, calling it instead “a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy.”

Gosar told his House Republican colleagues during a private meeting Tuesday that he would never espouse violence or harm to anyone. He noted that he took the video down from his account, according to a person in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

No apology

Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday he has not apologized to her.

“It's been well over a week. He not only has not apologized. He not only has not made any sort of contact or outreach, neither he nor the Republican leader (Kevin) McCarthy, but he has also doubled down by saying that I am somehow, you know, representative of undocumented people."

- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York

“It’s been well over a week. He not only has not apologized,” she said. “He not only has not made any sort of contact or outreach, neither he nor the Republican leader McCarthy, but he has also doubled down by saying that I am somehow, you know, representative of undocumented people.”

Caption
The House is expected to vote on a resolution to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, with a sword.

Credit: Alastair Grant

The House is expected to vote on a resolution to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, with a sword.
Caption
The House is expected to vote on a resolution to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, with a sword.

Credit: Alastair Grant

Credit: Alastair Grant

“In a perfect world, he’d be expelled,” she told reporters. “We are not in a perfect world, so censure and removal from committee I believe is appropriate.”

The resolution coming up for a vote states that depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials. It also cites the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as an example. The resolution goes on to say that violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted.