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paul gosar

November 17, 2021

House censures GOP rep for posting violent video depicting slaying of AOC

The House voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and remove him from his committees over a violent social media post.

Censures are rare in the House, with the last one occurring over a decade ago. But Democratic leaders moved with haste after Gosar posted an anime video last week that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and attacking President Joe Biden.

“Violence against women, workplace harassment, legal matters in terms of threatening a member and threatening the president of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. “We have to address it immediately … it’s outrageous on the part of the Republican leadership not to act upon this.”

The formal admonishment will remove Gosar from both the Natural Resources and House Oversight committees, the latter of which Ocasio-Cortez is also a member.

“It is sad,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “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.”

A House divided

Gosar deleted the video and issued a statement explaining his reasoning, but he did not offer an apology.

“I do not espouse violence towards anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset. I voluntarily took the cartoon down, not because it was itself a threat, but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored,” Gosar said.

For some Republicans, Gosar’s statement and removal of the video were sufficient, and any further punishment was not necessary.

“I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Although I certainly disagree with the cartoon or whatever it was, he said he’s sorry. He certainly explained that he understands why it’s not right,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.).

Some lawmakers reasoned that Gosar’s post exacerbated bipartisan tensions and violent rhetoric.

“It threatens members of Congress, but if we allow him to get away with it, anybody can be threatened,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.). “It also is a lightning rod to individuals who are crazy enough to try to carry something out — it gives the message that this would be OK.”

“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.”

Some House members opposed the censure because of its implications.

“I’m going to vote against it. It’s too broad. They’re taking unnecessary shots at Republicans,” said Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) ahead of the vote. “If we take over the House next year, the same thing can happen to Democrats.”

Democrats largely dismissed GOP claims that Democrats might face similar consequences if the House flips in the midterm elections, saying Gosar is an extreme example.

“If Democrats do something as egregious as Mr. Gosar they ought to be censured about it,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-N.Y.). “This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about safety. Not inciting violence and acting in a way that is consistent with what the House ought to expect. Mr. Gosar did not do that.”

Censures are a rarity

Censures are rare in the House, with only 23 members ever being officially rebuked. The last censure was against then-Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) in 2010 for misusing federal resources, filing inaccurate financial disclosure forms, and failing to pay taxes on a rental property in the Dominican Republic.

“Censure should not be frivolous. This is a 10-year gap [from] the last time we did censure. I don’t like having the responsibility of punishing members,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). “But what struck me was the reckless lack of consideration of what the remarks through a video would do in terms of the safety and security of the president of the United States and a member of Congress.”

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House to vote on censuring Gosar over posting violent video

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