House Votes to Censure Gosar Over AOC Video, 2 Republicans Join Democrats

The House of Representatives has voted 223-207-1 to censure Republican Congressman Paul Gosar over a graphic animated video he shared on social media that depicted him slaying Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—invoking the powerful sanction power for just the 24th time in congressional history.

The resolution calls for the Arizona lightning rod to face a public reprimand on the House floor, as well as his removal from his two committee assignments—House Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Natural Resources.

Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney and Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger were the only Republicans to vote with Democrats in favor. Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, avoided taking a position and voted "present."

The last censure of a member of Congress took place in 2010 against then-Representative Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, over ethics violations. Rangel retired from Congress in 2017.

In the minute-and-a-half anime video that was posted to Gosar's Twitter and Instagram accounts on November 7, Gosar's face is crudely edited into scenes from Attack on Titan in the cartoon hero's role. At one point, the Gosar character slits the throat of a monster with Ocasio-Cortez's face edited onto its body. The anime shots are intercut with footage from immigrants crossing the U.S. southern border.

"Any anime fans out there?" Gosar tweeted along with the video.

He has since taken it down and argued that it was meant to be symbolic and wasn't a call to violence.

New York's Ocasio-Cortez, noting she hasn't heard directly from Gosar or House GOP leadership about the incident, pleaded with her colleagues to condemn Gosar.

"Our work here matters, our example matters. There is meaning in our service, and as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country," Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "That is where we must draw the line independent of party, identity or belief."

Gosar didn't directly acknowledge Ocasio-Cortez in his remarks or express remorse. He again argued the video, which was posted by an unnamed staffer, had been "mischaracterized."

"I voluntarily took the cartoon down—not because it was itself a threat but because some thought it was," Gosar said. "Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, opted not to pursue formal action against Gosar after the latter addressed the GOP caucus in a closed-door meeting earlier in the week.

"House Democrats have broken nearly every rule and standard in order to silence dissidents and stack the deck for the radical, unpopular agenda," McCarthy said on the House floor. "It's about control: The one and only thing Democrats are interested in—not condemning violence, not protecting the institution, not decorum or decency—just control."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters Wednesday that the GOP leader's inaction gave her no choice.

"This is central to my work to protect the integrity of the House—of the institution—but also the lives of our members. It's outrageous on the part of their leadership not to act upon it," she said.

Though they've mostly stood by Gosar, House Republicans earlier this year stripped Cheney of her post as No. 3 in GOP leadership in an unrecorded, closed-door vote as punishment for her ongoing feud with former President Donald Trump over the January 6 Capitol riot and his unfounded insistence that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged." Cheney has continued to draw Trump's ire as top House Republicans have kowtowed for his approval.

Some Republicans, backed by Trump, also are pushing for the 13 moderate House GOP members who voted in favor of the Biden-backed bipartisan infrastructure package that passed earlier this month to be punished for their votes. However, no formal action has been taken.

"I think that speaks volumes about where their priorities lie," Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said on the House floor.

Republicans have argued that the Democrats' push to censure Gosar and the move earlier this year to strip committee assignments from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who also has become a far-right firebrand, sets up a dangerous precedent. The GOP is positioned to possibly take control of the House in the 2022 midterm election cycle.

"Today's action once again tramples on the traditional norms of the House," Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said on the House floor. "The majority is doing so solely to play politics with this moment and to score a cheap political point at the expense of a member of the minority."

But Democratic leaders said they aren't worried about that.

"If Democrats do something as egregious as Mr. Gosar, they ought to be censured," House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters Wednesday. "This is not a partisan issue."

Cole called the video "provocative and, in my opinion, inappropriate" but said Gosar had explained to the House GOP caucus that it was intended to be "symbolic of policies he opposes—not actual people."

"He clarified that he did not intend it to be an endorsement of violence and further that he does not condone violence," Cole said.

Gosar, an immigration hard-liner, argued that he was targeting "illegal aliens" with the video.

"This is what the left doesn't want the American people to know: the country is suffering from the plague of illegal immigration," he said. "I won't stop pointing this out."

Ocasio-Cortez is a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent.

Gosar, a dentist by trade, was first elected to Congress in 2010. He's built a reputation as a far-right lawmaker known to embrace conspiracy theories. Gosar was also one of the Republicans who embraced Trump's unfounded election claims and sought to overturn the election results.

Gosar spoke at a rally Trump held near the White House before a mob of supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of Biden's election. He later floated the unfounded claim that far-left activists were responsible for that day's violence.

Several of Gosar's siblings, who have been vocal critics of their brother, have called for his expulsion from Congress and campaigned for his election opponents.

After the anime video was posted online, Gosar's sister, Jennifer, said during a television interview that she believes her brother is a "sociopath."

"It definitely is getting worse because no one holds him accountable," Jennifer Gosar told CNN host Alisyn Camerota last week. "Does he have to act on it himself before we believe that he's a sociopath?"

Paul Gosar Faces Censure Over AOC Video
Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) attends a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Gosar has faced backlash since tweeting an altered anime video depicting himself killing Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images