The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and strip him of his committee assignments for posting a doctored anime video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Coretz (D-N.Y.). Only two — yes two — Republicans thought the video was worthy of formal condemnation, while 207 of them voted against the resolution, according to the initial vote tally. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) were the two who voted to punish Gosar, with Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voting present.
Democrats voted unanimously for the resolution, ensuring the resolution’s passage. Gosar sat on the House Oversight Committee, sharing a panel with Ocasio-Cortez, and the Natural Resources Committee, on which he served as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. No longer.
Gosar earlier this month tweeted a crudely edited anime video depicting he and other extremist Republican representatives as heroes combating President Biden’s immigration agenda. Gosar’s character at one point kills a character with Ocasio-Cortez’s face superimposed over it. The video has since been removed from Gosar’s social media platforms.
Ocasio-Cortez responded by calling out GOP leadership for allowing the party’s members to harass her without consequence, also citing an incident in which former Rep. Ted Yoho called her a “fucking bitch” on the steps of the Capitol, and another in which she was “stalked” by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). She also called Gosar a “collection of wet toothpicks.”
Gosar’s office said in a statement to The Washington Post that “everyone needs to relax,” the left “doesn’t get meme culture,” and that the video did not “glorify” violence. Gosar himself addressed the video himself in an interview on Tuesday with right-wing conspiracy theorist Stew Peters. He claimed the video “did not have anything to do with harming anyone” and said that he “did not apologize” when he met with Republican leaders earlier in the day. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had previously said Gosar did apologize, according to Politico.
Regardless, he hasn’t apologized publicly or to Ocasio-Cortez. “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,” she told reporters on Tuesday, adding that “in a perfect world” Gosar would be expelled from Congress.
Gosar did not apologize on the House floor on Wednesday, either, instead defending the video as depicting the fight over immigration in the United States. “[The video] directly contributes to the discussion and the understanding of the real-life battle,” he said. Gosar concluded by comparing himself to Alexander Hamilton: “If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censored by this House, I will do it.”
Ocasio-Cortez used her time on the House floor to echo her initial response about Republican leadership’s refusal to do anything about its members’ abusive behavior. “What is so hard, what is so hard about saying that this is wrong?” she said. “This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But, this is about what we are willing to accept.”
"What is so hard, what is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But, this is about what we are willing to accept." pic.twitter.com/nqV8ElU3d3
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 17, 2021
AOC told told Punchbowl on Tuesday that videos like the one Gosar posted are part of a “concerted strategy” Republicans are employing “to legitimize threats of violence on lower levels, and on the local levels, to intimidate people from participating in our democracy.” Meanwhile, Rep. Greene, who was also a character in Gosar’s anime video, is trying to get the Republicans who merely voted for President Biden’s infrastructure plan kicked off their committees. She also posted their office phone numbers to Twitter, and at least two of them, Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), have received death threats since the vote.
The House voted in February to remove Greene from her committees for her past support for QAnon and other baseless conspiracy theories. All but one of the 11 Republicans who voted to hold Greene voted against censuring Gosar. Rep. Kinzinger, who has announced he is not running for reelection in 2022, is the only member of the party to vote in favor of both measures. (Rep. Cheney did not vote to remove Greene from her committees.)
Momentum for to hold Gosar accountable had been building since last week, when a group of House Democrats announced they’d be introducing a censure resolution. “For a member of Congress to post a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden is a clear cut case for censure,” the members said in a statement. “For that Member to post such a video on his official Instagram account and use his official congressional resources in the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials goes beyond the pale.”
The House Rules Committee voted Tuesday evening to advance the resolution to censure Gosar and strip him of his two committee assignments, approving the measure 9-4, along party lines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke earlier that day on the party’s move to censure Gosar. “We cannot have members joking about murdering each other, as well as threatening the president of the United States,” she told CNN’s Manu Raju.
While a censure is largely symbolic, stripping Gosar of his committee assignments could have real consequences. Longtime Republican Congressman Steve King was booted from the Judicial and Agricultural committees in January of 2019 for making racist remarks. He lost his primary the following year, ending his career in Congress.
King’s removal at the hands of his own party was a long time ago. Since then, Republicans have not just tolerated, but venerated President Trump after he attempted to subvert American democracy and overturn the 2020 presidential election. It’s hard to see what, other than disloyalty to Trump, would cause the party to censure its own now.