WASHINGTON (CN) — In a move with little practical effect, forcing Republican Representative Paul Gosar to stand in the well of the House chamber for a ceremonial rebuke, the House voted largely along party lines Wednesday to censure the Arizona congressman for disseminating a threatening cartoon.
The video, posted last week and later removed, showed Gosar's face on an anime character slicing the throat of a character digitally altered to look like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Interspersed with images from the United States and Mexico border, the cartoon also showed the Gosar character attacking President Joe Biden.
Gosar's official Twitter account posted the video with the caption, "Any anime fans out there?" His personal Twitter account then retweeted the video with the caption, "The creativity of my team is off the hook."
Democrats said the censure isn't about politics, but safety and respect.
"This is about workplace harassment and violence against women. Yet, the member has never apologized for his actions," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said as just two Republicans joined with Democrats for the 223–207 vote to formally reprimanded Gosar over the video.
Gosar said the video was a metaphor, symbolic of the political fight over immigration, not a threat of violence. “I reject the false narrative categorically. I do not espouse violence to anyone," Gosar said.
Though the vote carries little practical effect for Gosar's time in office, it does removes him from his positions on the Natural Resources and House Oversight and Reform committees. It came after an hour of partisan debate and threats from Republicans that the censure was setting a dangerous precedent.
"The speaker is burning down the House on her way out the door," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who called the move to censure Gosar an "abuse of power" and claimed that Republicans are being held to a different standard of decorum.
Democratic Representative Mary Scanlon of Pennsylvania referenced the Jan. 6 insurrection, noting that violent images and phrases are dangerous in a politically fraught environment.
"We cannot dismiss Representative Gosar's violent fantasies as a joke because in this decade, in this America, someone is going to take him seriously," Scanlon said. "He is a public figure and, as we vividly saw on Jan. 6, the words and actions of public figures can readily act as a spark to the tinder of radical extremism, and God help us all when that happens."
Gosar compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, who, as noted by Democratic Representative Debbie Schultz of Florida noted, was killed in a duel with a political rival — one of multiple combat incidents involving Hamilton and a tradition that itself was a form of inciting violence.
"If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, I will do it," Gosar said ahead of the vote Wednesday.
Gosar said he "self-censored" and took down the video out of "compassion" for people who saw the video as a threat.
Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, defied calls by their party's leadership to vote against the censure. Republican Representative David Joyce of Ohio voted "present."
Ocasio-Cortez criticized McCarthy for refusing to speak out against Gosar's behavior.
"What is so hard? What is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar, but this is about what we are willing to accept," Ocasio-Cortez said.
Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma referred to the censure as a means of “allowing the majority to have a veto over minority appointments" to committees.
Earlier this year, House Democrats and 11 Republicans stripped Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia of her committee positions for her repeated commitment to conspiracy theories and violent language.
Cole's statements also come as some House Republicans have called for members of their party who voted for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to be removed from committee positions.
Gosar's censure marks the 24th time in its history that the House has censured one of its members. The last censure took place in 2010 when Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat, was censured and removed from his position as the head of the House Ways and Means Committee for financial misconduct.