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House to vote on censuring Paul Gosar over posting violent video

By Mark Brodie
Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 4:54pm
Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:52pm

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Paul Gosar
Paul Gosar in 2018.

U.S. House Democrats moved Wednesday to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and strip him of his committee assignments for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with a sword.

Democrats were moving quickly and forcefully to punish Gosar for the video, calling it a clear threat to a lawmaker's life. Republicans warned that the effort sets a precedent that could come back to haunt Democrats if they find themselves in the minority, but Democrats said the parties of those involved was irrelevant.

“If Democrats do something as egregious as Mr. Gosar, they ought to be censured about it," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about safety."

The push to censure Gosar is just the latest example of the raw tensions that have roiled Congress since the 2020 election and the violent Capitol insurrection that followed. The Arizona Republican has been one of the chief instigators in recent months as he's defended the supporters of former President Donald Trump who beat police and broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6.

GOP leaders have largely ignored Gosar's actions and are urging their members to vote against the resolution censuring him.

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.”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Republicans' inaction and silence “outrageous.”

“We have to address it immediately," Pelosi said. “I’m so pleased that our members understand that this is central to our work in Congress."

The resolution would 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 would be second time this year the majority has initiated the removal of a GOP lawmaker from an assigned committee, the first being Marjorie Taylor Greene of 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.

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

“We cannot dismiss Rep. Gosar’s violent fantasies as a joke,” Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) said from the House floor. “He is a public figure and as we vividly saw on Jan. 6, the words and actions of public figures rapidly spark the tinder of radical extremism, and God help us all when that happens.”

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.

Ocasio-Cortez said he has not apologized to her.

“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 (Kevin) McCarthy, but he has also doubled down by saying that I am somehow, you know, representative of undocumented people.”

“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 states that depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials. It also cites the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as an example. It says 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.

If approved by a majority of the House, the censured lawmaker is supposed to stand in the well of the House as the resolution of censure is read aloud by the House speaker. Censure is the strongest punishment the House can dole out short of expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote.

The House has censured its members on 23 occasions, six previous times this century. The last was in 2010 involving Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, for financial misconduct. The censure carries no practical effect, except to provide a historic footnote that marks a lawmaker's career.

Republicans warned Democrats to be careful about dictating the punishment of those who serve in the minority because of the precedent it will set.

“This is a dark and dangerous road the majority is going down,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, said Tuesday. “I urge you for the future of the chamber to rethink this course.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) was one of the few Republicans saying he would vote to 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. He has been repeatedly criticized by his own siblings, six of whom appeared in campaign ads supporting his Democratic opponent in 2018.

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.

To discuss what the atmosphere is like in Washington and what the censure vote means, The Show spoke with Kadia Goba, a political reporter for BuzzFeed News.

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