Politics

House censures GOP Rep. Paul Gosar over anime video depicting him killing AOC

Key Points
  • The House of Representatives censured GOP Rep. Paul Gosar and stripped him of his committee assignments for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging swords at President Joe Biden.
  • Gosar is just the 24th House member censured in the chamber's history and the first in more than a decade. 
  • House lawmakers also voted to remove Gosar from his assignments on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. 
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) arrives to his office on Capitol Hill on November 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House is expected to vote on a resolution later today which would censure Rep. Gosar and remove him from the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

The House on Wednesday censured GOP Rep. Paul Gosar and stripped him of his committee assignments for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and swinging swords at President Joe Biden.

The resolution passed in a 223-207-1 vote. Only two Republicans joined every Democrat in voting for the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote that Gosar's "actions demand a response." 

"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," Pelosi said on the House floor. 

"This is an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives," she continued. "It is not just about us as members of Congress, it is a danger that represents to everyone in the country."

Gosar is just the 24th House member censured in the chamber's history and the first in more than a decade. 

Censure is the harshest formal punishment in the House short of expulsion. It requires a simple majority in a floor vote to pass.

House lawmakers also voted to remove Gosar from his assignments on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. Ocasio-Cortez also serves on the Oversight and Reform Committee.

House rules required Gosar, an Arizona Republican, to stand on the House floor while Pelosi read the rebuke aloud. Ocasio-Cortez sat with colleagues on the Democratic side of the chamber while the speaker read that Gosar was censured and removed from his committee assignments.

Earlier this year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was removed from her committee assignments for spreading hateful and violent conspiracy theories.

Gosar had shared the edited video on his official social media channels last week. 

It featured a scene from Japanese anime series "Attack on Titan," with Gosar's face superimposed on a character bearing two swords and attacking giant characters that had the superimposed faces of Ocasio-Cortez and Biden. The video also included images of Border Patrol officers with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The video, which was shared to Instagram and Twitter, has since been deleted. 

No apology offered

Following sharp criticism from Democrats on the House floor, Gosar did not apologize for the video and insisted that it was metaphor for immigration policy. 

"I do not espouse violence towards anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset," Gosar said on the House floor ahead of the vote, adding that he rejects what he called a "false narrative" that the video encourages violence.

Gosar claimed the video represents the "policy battle regarding amnesty for tens of millions of illegal aliens," which he said is a provision included in Biden's "reckless" economic package. 

"Our country is suffering from the plague of illegal immigration," he said on the House floor. 

Gosar claimed "there is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country."

Gosar also misrepresented the warning label Twitter put on the video after he posted it. He falsely claimed that the video was removed because Twitter thought it was "in the public interest for it to remain." 

The resolution to censure Gosar for the video was first introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus, and nine other Democratic lawmakers. 

The group drew a connection between Gosar's video and the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, saying that "depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021."

Ahead of the final vote Wednesday, Speier slammed Republicans' inaction, noting that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was silent on the matter for eight days. 

"Silence speaks volumes. Silence normalizes violence," Speier said. 

McCarthy opposed censuring Gosar and removing him from his committee assignments. Rather than condemning Gosar over the video, McCarthy said the move to censure him was the "definition of abuse of power." 

McCarthy cautioned that Republicans might also censure Democrats or take away their committee assignments if they win back the House majority.

"The speaker is burning down the House on her way out the door," McCarthy said ahead of the final vote. "Let me be clear. I do not condone violence, and Rep. Gosar has echoed that sentiment."

Ocasio-Cortez also condemned McCarthy's inaction and remarks. 

"It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong," Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor.

"What is so hard about saying that this is wrong?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.

She added: "This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept."

Breaking Republican silence

Most Republican members have been silent on the video. But at least two, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, expressed support for the resolution prior to Wednesday's vote.

Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republican members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Cheney said Gosar should be censured for his "continued indefensible activities." She also criticized McCarthy for his initial silence, calling it a "real symbol of his lack of strength." 

"In a moment where you've got an avowed white nationalist in Rep. Gosar who has posted a video advocating the killing of another member, the idea that our leader will not stand against that but that he's somehow going after and allowing attacks against 13 members who are conducting themselves in a serious and substantive way is really outrageous," Cheney told the AP. 

Her statement referred to the 13 GOP lawmakers who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, who have faced backlash from their Republican colleagues and even death threats from the public because of their votes.

Kinzinger also said he would vote yes on the censure resolution. 

"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 said in a Twitter post Tuesday.

Gosar, who was one of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, has a history of engaging with white nationalist groups.

In February, he attended a white nationalist conference hosted by America First leader Nick Fuentes, who is known for pushing racist and antisemitic rhetoric. 

Following the event, Gosar attempted to distance himself from Fuentes and his speaking engagement, telling The Washington Post that he denounces "white racism" and that he attended the event to reach a younger conservative voter base. 

In late 2019, Gosar also attended a "Trumpstock" rally in Golden Valley, which featured QAnon speakers and supporters.

He has also continually pushed conspiracy theories about the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, calling the rioters "political prisoners."