By COLE LAUTERBACH
THE CENTER SQUARE REPORTER
(The Center Square) — An Arizona congressman received an official slap on the wrist for posting a controversial video implying the killing of a Democratic lawmaker and an attack against President Joe Biden.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted, 223-207, to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and remove him from his committee assignments. Two Republican representatives, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, voted with Democrats to censure Rep. Gosar.
A censure carries no actual punishment beyond the embarrassment of having to sit through a public admonishment. Rep. Gosar, however, was removed from the House Oversight Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. Gosar posted a video Sunday that superimposed his head on an anime character killing another character with the superimposed face of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and then attacking a character with President Biden’s head.
Rep. Gosar removed the video at the request of House Republican leadership.
Rep. Gosar stressed in a statement he doesn’t endorse violence against any member of Congress or the president, rather the video depicted “the fight taking place next week on the House floor and symbolizes the battle for the soul of America.”
In the debate leading up to the censure vote, Democrats invoked former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrection that had members of the chamber hiding from protesters who stormed the Capitol building.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Rep. Gosar violated House ethics rules.
“We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States,” she said. “This is both an endangerment of our elected official and an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives.”
If Rep. Gosar could make such a message without consequence, others said rhetoric would worsen.
“There must be real consequences,” Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said. “This is about accountability. At some point, we need to come together to uphold the decency of this organization.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez aimed her criticism at Republican leadership for not condemning Gosar.
“What I believe is unprecedented is that a member of leadership of either party to be unable to condemn an incitement of violence against a member of this body,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said.
Rep. Gosar spoke on his own behalf, saying he doesn’t condone violence. He said the video was meant to reach younger constituents about the problem of amnesty for illegal aliens.
“If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it. It is done,” Rep. Gosar said.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., called out Democrats for using Rep. Gosar’s video to ignore more important issues. He said the video is “highly-stylized” anime.
“It was not Mr. Gosar’s intention, I believe, and he’s made that clear, to induce anyone to violence,” Rep. Biggs said.
Republican leaders accused Democrats of hypocrisy in punishing poor behavior.
“The speaker is burning down the House on her way out the door,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, referencing comments by Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, that promoted confrontation amid the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Rep. Gosar is the 24th member of Congress ever to be censured. The last censure was given in 2010 to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who was found guilty of violating 11 House ethics rules related to tax evasion.
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.