The House on Wednesday censured Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) and stripped him of his committee assignments as a result of a cartoonish video that showed him attacking a fellow representative and President Joe Biden.
The censure — one of only 24 in the country’s history — came on a mostly party-line, 223-207 vote. The only Republicans supporting the motion were Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Republican Rep. David Joyce of Ohio voted “present.”
Gosar, one of the most controversial members of Congress, emerged defiant and unrepentant.
He sat impassively throughout the debate and when he rose to speak said, “I reject the false narrative categorically.”
Removal from the committees on which he serves denies him a chief means of introducing bills, but does not otherwise affect his ability to serve in Congress.
The video showed a cartoon figure bearing Gosar’s face stabbing a cartoon monster bearing the face of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The flying figure with Gosar’s face then brandished his swords at a second monster bearing the face of President Biden. The video also included images of border control agents sometimes violently confronting illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, with red, blood-like splashes across the screen along with the flash of words like “murder” and “violence” and “drugs.”
Democrats condemned the video as an incitement to violence, noting that Ocasio-Cortez has received frequent death threats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen. Depictions of violence can foment actual violence, as witnessed by this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.”
However, many Republicans defended the video as an exercise of free speech and warned that the vote of censure will set a precedent for whenever Republicans retake the House.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “there’s an old definition of abuse of power: rules for thee but not for me.” He cited many Democrats who have said offensive things about Republicans.
Ocasio-Cortez said, “What is so hard about saying this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. This is about what we’re willing to accept.”
After the vote, Gosar issued a statement that said in part that the cartoon was not an incitement to violence.
Gosar said many Democrats have supported real-world violence by praising Black Lives Matter protesters.
“We have members of Congress urging more violence and inciting more violence. Actual violence. Yet they remain on their committees. They were never censured for actual incitement to violence.”