'Inciting violence begets violence': Paul Gosar censured over video aimed at AOC




  • In Politics
  • 2021-11-17 22:29:38Z
  • By The Guardian
Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP  

The House delivered an extraordinary rebuke of congressman Paul Gosar on Wednesday, by formally censuring the Arizona Republican and removing his committee assignments for posting an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking Joe Biden.

Gosar, a loyalist of Donald Trump and one of the most far-right members of Congress, sat in the chamber and listened as his colleagues debated the censure against him - the harshest form of punishment the chamber can mete short of expulsion.

"This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar," Ocasio-Cortez said in a speech before the vote. "This is about what we are willing to accept."

"What is so hard about saying that this is wrong?" she asked.

The sanction was approved on a largely party-line vote, 223 to 207, with all Democrats and just two Republicans - Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois - voting in favor. Gosar was also stripped of his membership on the House Oversight Committee, where he serves alongside Ocasio-Cortez, and the Natural Resources Committee, which deals with issues critical to his state.

Shortly after the vote, Gosar was called to stand in the "well" of the chamber as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read aloud the resolution. The formal ritual, intended as a public rebuke of the censured member, was over moments later. Republicans encircled Gosar, shaking his hand and patting him on the back.

Gosar posted the video earlier this month from his congressional Twitter account, asking, "Any anime fans out there?"

The video, which Gosar called a "cartoon" and has since removed, depicts the Arizona congressman as an anime character slashing another figure with the face of Ocasio-Cortez in the neck with a sword. The cartoon version of Gosar then menaces his swords at Biden.

The censure comes just 10 months after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January hunting for lawmakers and threatening to "hang" the vice-president. As supporters of continue to Trump lash out and threaten Republican lawmakers who they deem insufficiently loyal, party leaders have become increasingly tolerant of violent rhetoric within their ranks.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, condemned Republicans' overwhelming silence as "outrageous".

"These actions demand a response," she said.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders have refused to publicly condemn Gosar for sharing the video and urged their caucus to oppose the sanction.

McCarthy called the censure vote an "abuse of power" by Democrats, designed to distract from their legislative agenda and other national issues, such as rising inflation and immigration. He also accused Democrats of imposing a double standard that failed to hold members of their own caucus accountable for controversial rhetoric.

Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California who introduced the resolution, said partisanship was not the issue.

"Inciting violence begets violence," said Speier, a survivor of the 1978 Jonestown massacre. "Let me be clear, if a Democrat did the same thing, I would introduce the same resolution."

"Threatening and showing the killing of a member of this House. Can't that appall you?" asked House majority leader Steny Hoyer, staring at the Republican side of the aisle. "Do you have no shame?"

Far from being chastened, Gosar was defiant.

"No matter how much the left tries to quiet me, I will continue to speak out," he said. He did not apologize and instead insisted that the video was not intended as a threat.

Democrats argued that depictions of violence and violent rhetoric from public officials can incite actual violence, pointing to the insurrection at the US Capitol as an example.

"We cannot dismiss representative Gosar's violent fantasies as a joke, because in this decade, in this American, someone's going to take him seriously," said congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

Gosar, a dentist who was first elected in 2010, has been tied to white nationalist and rightwing militia groups. In Arizona, his own siblings have appeared in campaign videos urging voters to remove their brother from office.

On 6 January Gosar objected to the certification of Arizona's electors for Biden. In the lead-up to the attack on the Capitol, the Arizona congressman amplified the "Big Lie" conspiracy that baselessly claims the election was stolen from Trump. He has since defended the rioters and falsely claimed that the insurrection was a leftwing provocation.

In its history, the House has censured members on nearly two dozen occasions, only six of which occurred in the last century.

The most recent censure was in 2010, after a lengthy congressional investigation found congressman Charlie Rangel, a Democrat of New York, guilty of a series of ethics violations. Pelosi presided over the censure of Rangel, a member of her own caucus, and a majority of his party supported the sanction.

Earlier this year, House Democrats took the unprecedented step of ousting Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Trump ally from Georgia, from her committee assignments for spreading dangerous and hateful conspiracy theories.

Ocasio-Cortez has tied Gosar's behavior to a larger pattern of abuse and harassment by Republican members of Congress. In a floor speech last year, Ocasio-Cortez publicly denounced congressman Ted Yoho of Florida for calling her a "fucking bitch" during a heated exchange over rising crime rates and poverty.

In the resolution, Democrats excoriate Gosar for targeting Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress.

"Violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted," it states.

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