Watch CBS News

House votes to censure Congressman Paul Gosar for violent video in rare formal rebuke

House censures GOP congressman over violent video
House censures GOP congressman over violent video 02:30

Washington — The House voted on Wednesday to censure Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona and strip him of his two committee assignments after he posted an edited anime video to his social media accounts that depicted violence against Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and President Biden.

The House passed a resolution punishing Gosar by a vote of 223 to 207, with Republicans Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois joining all Democrats in support of the measure and one Republican voting "present." After the resolution was approved, Gosar stood in the well of the House chamber while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read aloud the formal rebuke against him. 

The resolution stated that "depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6" and noted that "violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority."

The video that sparked the censure resolution was posted to Gosar's congressional Twitter and Instagram accounts last week and racked up more than 3 million views. In the cartoon, Gosar is portrayed as a sword-wielding character who slashes at a figure with Ocasio-Cortez's face with his weapons from behind, causing the character to collapse to the ground. Then, with a sword in each hands, Gosar is depicted charging toward Mr. Biden and raising his arms in attack.

Just 23 other members of Congress in U.S. history have been censured, the most severe punishment a lawmaker can face short of expulsion, with the most recent being Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York in 2010 for ethics violations

Ahead of the vote, Ocasio-Cortez criticized Republicans for failing to denounce Gosar's actions and asked her fellow lawmakers, "Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable?"

"What is so hard about saying that this is wrong?" she said in a speech from the House floor. "This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept."

But Gosar defended himself, arguing he does not "espouse violence toward anyone." He did not apologize to Ocasio-Cortez and instead said he "self-censored" by removing the portrayal from his social media accounts on his own accord after learning his colleagues felt threatened by it.

"There is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country, and no threat was intended by my staff or me," the Arizona lawmaker said in floor remarks, likening himself to Alexander Hamilton at the conclusion of his remarks. 

The move by the House to discipline the Arizona Republican was the latest undertaken by the Democratic majority in response to violent statements promoted by GOP lawmakers. In February, the House voted to remove Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees after extremist and racist comments she posted to social media before she was elected to Congress surfaced. 

Democrats have said such action against those Republicans was warranted as their conduct promotes violence against members of Congress and GOP congressional leaders have failed to discipline their colleagues on their own.

But Republicans warn that Democrats are now paving the way for them to respond in kind when the GOP retakes control of the House.

"Today's action once again tramples on the traditional norms of the House: The idea that the majority and the minority have the right to appoint their own members to committees as they see fit," Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the House Rules Committee, said from the House floor. "It sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent that will likely change the character of the House in the years to come, and not for the better."

But Pelosi said the censure resolution against Gosar was about "workplace harassment and violence against women." She also condemned House Republican leadership for failing to discipline Gosar on their own, saying it is "sad that this entire House must take this step" because of their refusal to respond.

"These actions demand a response," Pelosi said. "We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the president of the United States. This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives."

In response, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Pelosi of "burning down the House on her way out the door" and claimed Democrats are abusing their power by removing Gosar from his committees.

Gosar has been in Congress since 2011 and serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee alongside Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the House Natural Resources Committee. Across his six terms in Congress, he has raised eyebrows for social media posts and promotion of conspiracy theories, including that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Gosar objected to the electoral votes from his home state of Arizona during the joint session of Congress on January 6 and has claimed Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was fatally shot when she tried to jump through a broken window outside the House chamber during the January 6 assault, was "executed."

The U.S. Capitol Police cleared the officer who killed Babbitt and said he acted lawfully and within department policy.

Gosar's video last week was met with swift condemnation from congressional Democrats. He removed the post after receiving a call from McCarthy, who told him the cartoon was inappropriate, and said in a statement he does not "espouse violence or harm towards any member of Congress or Mr. Biden."

Gosar also appeared behind closed doors before his fellow House Republicans on Tuesday, Cole said, and insisted to his colleagues that the video was intended to symbolize the policies he opposes and was not meant for it to be an endorsement of violence.

The Arizona Republican, however, downplayed the controversy in a tweet. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.