WASHINGTON — House Democrats voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar and remove him from two committees after he posted an anime video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.
The resolution passed Wednesday with the support of all Democrats and just two Republicans. David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, voted present. The censure — a rarely used rebuke — publicly condemns Gosar and strips him of his seats on the Natural Resources and Oversight and Reform committees.
Gosar defended himself on the House floor ahead of the vote but spent much of the time talking about illegal immigration.
"It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” he said, insisting that the cartoon was just a statement about differences over immigration policy. “There is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat immigration poses to our country."
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed back directly against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pointed to comments made by Democratic members during Black Lives Matter protests and about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
The resolution to censure Gosar highlights both the increasing threats of violence that members of Congress have faced and the tension between Democrats and Republicans since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
"This is not about me,” Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor. “This is not about Rep. Gosar, but this is about what we are willing to accept. Not just the Republican leader, but I have seen other members of this party advance the argument, including Rep. Gosar himself, the illusion that this was just a joke. That what we say and what we do does not matter so long as we claim a lack of meaning."
The vote to censure Gosar comes after he posted on social media an altered clip from Attack on Titan, a popular anime show. The minute and a half video showed an animated character with Gosar’s face attacking what looked like Ocasio-Cortez. Seconds later, Gosar’s character flies through the air and attacks a Biden-like character with two swords. His accompanying text on Twitter read: “The creativity of my team is off the hook.”
At the start of the vote, Gosar remained in the back of the room talking to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Darrell Issa. Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, and Bob Good joined them for brief periods before Gosar slipped into the cloakroom.
Rep. Jackie Speier, with other members, led the effort in introducing the resolution last week. Rep. Ted Deutch introduced the amendment to take away Gosar’s committee assignments. The resolution also criticized House leadership for not publicly condemning him.
“The depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021,” the text of the resolution reads. It goes on to note that violence against women in politics is “meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life” and that women of color are disproportionately impacted by the issue.
Rep. Ted Lieu, one of the first members to condemn the video on social media, told BuzzFeed News that the House would expel Gosar if Republicans joined them.
“In any other workplace in America, if a coworker made a snuff film about murdering another coworker, that person would be fired,” Lieu said. “The least we can do is remove him from all these committees, which we intend to do today.”
Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, two GOP members who currently serve on the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, publicly stated they’d support the censure a day ahead of the vote. They voted in favor.
“We have to hold Members accountable who incite or glorify violence, who spread and perpetuate dangerous conspiracies,” Kinzinger wrote in a Twitter post. “The failure to do so will take us one step closer to this fantasized violence becoming real.”
After widespread criticism from Democrats, Gosar doubled down with a second meme. In it, one crying character says, “Your cartoon anime scares me,” and another character responds, “It’s a cartoon. Relax.” The same day, Gosar released a formal statement defending the video; he said he didn’t mean to “espouse violence” and suggested the fighting symbolizes policy disputes in Congress.
“This video is truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy,” he said in the statement. He went on to attack Ocasio-Cortez’s stance on the issue.
Twitter flagged the post as hateful content, and Gosar later deleted the video.
He is the second Republican to be stripped of committee assignments this year after the House voted to remove Greene from her assignments after her past social media posts, including a photoshopped picture of her holding a gun next to Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive members, resurfaced shortly after she was sworn into Congress.
Gosar, a six-term member of Congress, had recently come under fire from Democrats after his name appeared on a fundraising flyer with Nick Fuentes, a known white nationalist. Gosar denied any participation in the event but had teamed up with Fuentes months earlier at an America First Political Action Conference.
During his 2018 reelection bid, six of his nine siblings released an ad supporting his Democratic opponent. After the anime video was posted, one sister told Alisyn Camerota during a CNN interview, “Does he have to act on it himself before we believe that he is an absolute, he's a sociopath?”
Gosar is now part of a small club of representatives. Twenty-three members have been censured with the earliest dating back to 1832, according to the Congressional Research Service. The last censure of a House member was in 2010, when Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York was censured for making improper financial disclosures, failing to pay taxes, and improper solicitation of funds.