The House voted Wednesday to condemn Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ) for tweeting an anime video depicting him beheading Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging swords at President Biden – a move that comes 10 months after a mob of former President Donald Trump supporters invaded the Capitol.
The 223-to-207 vote, with one member voting present, is the first time the House has censured one of its members in more than a decade. Gosar is also removed from his positions on the House Oversight and Natural Resources committees.
Then, directly after the vote, he tweeted the film again.
“Disguising death threats against a member of Congress and a president of the United States in an animated video does not make those death threats any less real or less serious,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during Wednesday’s debate, describing GOP leaders’ refusal to reprimand Gosar as “outrageous.”
The day underlined the post-Jan. 6 tensions in Congress, as well as Republicans’ growing proclivity to protect their GOP colleagues against any criticism from Democrats, regardless of the conduct at issue.
The majority of Republicans who spoke on the House floor on Wednesday concentrated on portraying Democrats as power-hungry hypocrites intent on ruining the nation and reluctant to reprimand their own members for what Republicans alleged were comparable activities. But, other from short statements of not endorsing violence, few Republicans chastised Gosar for sharing a video of himself thrusting a sword into the back of a colleague’s neck.
Some Republican legislators dismissed the video as a joke or pointed out that cartoons are often violent; others suggested Gosar removed the video and that was sufficient. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has promised to remove many Democrats from committee assignments if Republicans win control of the House next year.
A censure is more severe than a reprimand but less severe than expulsion from the House. Shortly after the vote on Wednesday, Gosar stood in the House chamber’s well as Pelosi read out the censure resolution and a verbal admonition.
As Gosar was censured, around a dozen Republicans stood at his side in support. Ocasio-Cortez watched the censure from the House’s front row, approximately 15 feet away from Gosar, and was flanked by Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio).
Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL) joined Democrats in supporting the bill. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) voted “present,” noting his position on the House Ethics Committee and the potential that Gosar’s posting might be heard by the panel.
Gosar refused to apologize in comments on the House floor before the vote. Instead, he took a confrontational stance, calling out what he called a “false narrative” that the video was “dangerous or threatening.”
“It was not,” Gosar clarified. He likened himself to one of the country’s founders, Alexander Hamilton, and said that the film was a symbolic rebuke of Biden’s immigration policies. As treasury secretary, Hamilton was accused of mishandling two government loans. The censure vote against him was defeated.
Ocasio-Cortez, who has previously suffered threats and harassment from House Republicans, like Marjorie Taylor-Greene, said that Wednesday’s resolution is not about her or Gosar, but rather about “what we are willing to accept.”
“What is so hard about saying that this is wrong?” she asked.
In defending Gosar, she said, Republican lawmakers have embraced “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.”
“Now, this nihilism runs deep, and it conveys and betrays a certain contempt for the meaning and importance of our work here,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Gosar has long been chastised for his radical ideas, including propagating the erroneous notion that the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the fatal white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville in 2017 were the result of a left-wing conspiracy. In February, he spoke at an event where the organizer advocated for white nationalism. Later, Gosar separated himself from the organizer’s comments.
The House decision on Wednesday came just over a week after Gosar uploaded a 90-second film that looks to be an edited version of the opening credits of the Japanese cartoon series “Attack on Titan.” The plot centres on a hero who goes out to slay the Titans, massive beasts that have eaten practically all of human civilization.
“Any anime fans out there?” Gosar said this in a tweet that included a link to the changed video.
Ocasio-visage Cortez’s is edited over one of the Titans’ faces in one part in the video. Gosar soars into the air and cuts the Titan in the neck, killing it. In another scenario, Gosar throws two swords at an opponent whose face has been replaced with Biden’s.
McCarthy and other Republican leaders have not officially reacted to Gosar’s video. McCarthy told CNN on Monday that when he learned about the video, he phoned Gosar and highlighted that the congressman “made a statement that he doesn’t support violence, and he took the video down.”
McCarthy accused Democrats of adopting “rules for thee, but not for me” on the House floor on Wednesday, and warned political retaliation if Republicans recapture the majority.
“What [Democrats] have started cannot be easily undone. Their actions today and in the past have forever changed the way the House operates,” he said, naming several Democrats who “will need the approval of a majority” to keep their committee assignments in a GOP-led House.
Even as they denounced the House’s decision to rescind Gosar’s committee assignments, some Republicans have claimed that similar action should be taken against their 13 Republican colleagues who just voted in support of Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Twitter first issued a “public interest notice” in response to Gosar’s message, claiming that it violated its hateful behavior policy. Gosar later removed the tweet.
Gosar mentioned the Twitter notification in defending the video on Wednesday.
“Even Twitter, the left’s mouthpiece, did not remove the cartoon, noting it was in the public’s interest for it to remain,” he said.
Last Friday, the White House blasted the video, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for investigations by the House Ethics Committee and law enforcement.
In reaction to Gosar’s video, Ocasio-Cortez recounted multiple instances in the Capitol when she was confronted or harassed by Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA) and Rep. Ted Yoho (FL), both of whom departed office in January.
“All at my job,” she tweeted, along with an upside-down smiley face. “[And] nothing ever happens.”
“Remember when Yoho accosted me on the the Capitol & called me a f—ing b—,…”when Greene ran after me a few months ago screaming & reaching … Remember when she stalked my office… & ppl locked inside …All at my job … & nothing ever happens.” https://t.co/edDbrED5dv
— Carol (@ciaogirl9) November 9, 2021
Several Democratic women spoke up during Wednesday’s House discussion about the escalating threats they have encountered in recent months.
Rep. Nikema Williams (GA) said, “This routine brand of violence against women in politics is a direct attempt to silence us.” She went on to say that after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump crowd, she had to hire protection for herself and her family.
Gosar’s video has been seen over 3 million times, according to Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA). In previous years, such a film “might have been excused as a lapse in judgment or even possibly a bad joke — but this Congress knows what happens when members of the radical right get stirred up by their leaders,” she added.