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House Votes to Censure Paul Gosar Over Video Depicting Him Killing Ocasio-Cortez

Gosar has been censured and removed from committee assignments, sending a harsh rebuke to Republicans.

Rep. Paul Gosar rides a subway to the U.S. Capitol Building on November 17, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

The House has voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) Wednesday, sending a harsh rebuke to the far right representative for sharing a video last week depicting an anime version of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and attacking President Joe Biden.

The House voted 223-207 to censure Gosar and remove him from his committee assignments. Gosar had been seated on the Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight Committee, which broadly oversees the government and internal congressional affairs. Ocasio-Cortez currently also serves on the latter committee.

Only two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois), voted for the censure after Republican leaders whipped representatives to vote “no” on the resolution earlier on Monday. One Republican, Rep. David Joyce (Ohio) voted “present.”

A censure is the second-harshest punishment that a member of the House can receive, after expulsion, and is meant to disgrace the representative in question. Its use is exceedingly rare; only 23 representatives have been censured since the 19th century. Removal from committee assignments can have a disciplinary influence on a member and their party, sending a message by stripping a member of some of their voting power. (Seats on the Oversight Committee, moreover, are coveted for the group’s jurisdiction over a broad range of issues.)

“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 and instead starts to venture off into a tangent about gas prices and inflation,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “What is so hard about saying this is wrong? This is not about me, this is not about Representative Gosar, but this is about what we are willing to accept.”

“As leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country,” she continued, condemning Republicans for dismissing the video as a joke or lighthearted. “And that is where we must draw the line independent of party, identity, or belief. It is about a core recognition of human dignity and value and worth.”

Indeed, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) attempted to minimize Gosar’s responsibility by saying it was the representative’s staff, not Gosar himself, that had authorized the video. McCarthy later equated Gosar’s actions to that of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), who publicly supported the movement for Black lives.

This is a willfully incorrect comparison: Gosar’s video was about inciting murder of a fellow lawmaker; last year’s protests were about stopping police violence against Black and oppressed people.

Other Republicans have lied, saying that Gosar has apologized for the debacle. But Gosar has not apologized, and has only made excuses for the video over the past week during interviews and on the House floor.

“I explained to them what was happening. I did not apologize,” the Republican recently said in an interview. “I said this video didn’t have anything to do with harming anybody,” Gosar continued, even though the video very clearly depicts him and fellow extremist Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) slashing and killing Ocasio-Cortez.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the censure as an “emergency” ahead of vote on Wednesday, saying that the issue is of immediate importance to “the lives of our members.” Other Democrats have also condemned Gosar’s action, with House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-New York) calling it “vile, hateful, outrageous, dangerous and inciting to violence.”

Pelosi further condemned the video during the House vote on Wednesday, saying, “We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the president of the United States.” The Speaker also emphasized that the threat against Ocasio-Cortez was particularly concerning because it was a threat against a woman of color.

Other Democrats have called for Gosar to be expelled, which is also an extremely rare punishment in the House. Only five members have ever been expelled through a chamber vote, with the most recent member being Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) in 2002, who was convicted for bribery.

Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Tuesday that expelling Gosar would be the ideal scenario, and that it would happen “in a perfect world.”

“If he was telling the truth, he would have apologized by now. It’s been well over a week,” she said. “He not only has not apologized, he not only has not made any sort of contact or outreach — neither he nor the Republican leader of the party — but he has also doubled down.”

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