Rep. Gosar censured over anime video that depicted violence against Democrats

The U.S. House of Representatives censured one of its own for the first time in more than a decade. Wednesday's censure vote against Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was divided — nearly along party lines. Lisa Desjardins has been following the process all day and joins Judy Woodruff with more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was the first time the U.S. House of Representatives censured one of its own in more than a decade. And, as we reported, when it took that step today against Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, it was divided nearly along party lines.

    Lisa Desjardins has been following this all day, and she joins me now.

    So, Lisa, hello.

    Tell us more about what was in this video that he posted and why do Democrats feel he should be censured?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This video was posted by Representative Gosar on his Twitter feed and other places. And it stayed up for three days.

    Now, I want to first explain to our viewers, we're not going to show this video. It does depict violence. But we do want people to understand what we're talking about. So we're going to show some images that help people understand what this is.

    First of all, the image — this video had a series of sort of frenzy, very fast pacing, flashes of images like this one, some anime Japanese characters, as well as some photos of migrants on the border, different images of that.

    But the one getting the most attention has been this one. That is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman from New York, her face imposed on a character known as a Titan, which is a bad guy in this anime world.

    Now, what is that in front of her? That is actually a depiction of Representative Gosar are carrying swords attacking her. Now, she's not the only high-ranking official to be attacked in this video or just depicted this way. Also, at the end of the video is this image of a character with knives and swords attacking President Biden himself.

    So, Democrats said in their censure resolution this has gone too far. This is not — this is violence against public officials and members of Congress. And they voted largely, all the Democrats and two Republicans, that he needed to be censured, which means he had to face the House of Representatives. And, also, he has been stripped of his committee positions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we see that there were only two Republicans who voted with the Democrats on the censure, Congresswoman Cheney, Congressman Kinzinger.

    How is — is Congressman Gosar defending what he did? And what about Republican Party leadership? What are they saying?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    From the House floor today, we heard two very different looks at what's happening here. I want to first talk about what Representative Ocasio-Cortez said is going on. Here's what she said on the House floor today:

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):

    It's pretty cut and dry. Do you find — does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable? Would you allow depictions of violence against women, against colleagues, would you allow that in your home? Do you think this should happen on a school board, in a city council, in a church?

    And if it's not acceptable there, why should it be accepted here?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    For his part, Gosar has said he was trying to be metaphorical, that he was going against Biden and Democratic policies, especially on immigration.

    So I want to look at what he said he was doing today on the floor, and then also what Republicans said in response, including Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying Democrats are the problem. Here are their 2 cents, sound bites from them.

  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ):

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

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):

    For Democrats, this vote isn't about a video. It's about control. That's the one and only thing Democrats are interested in.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And Republicans, by and large, supported Gosar. They don't support him behind the scenes. They know he's a controversial figure. They have problems, in fact, with his associations with white nationalists in the past.

    But they say, here, Democrats went too far, that they sort of jumped the process in this situation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, you are on the Hill all the time. What does this mean for how things are going to work up there?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I'm going to say, Republicans and Democrats alike, by and large, behind the scenes see Representative Gosar sometimes as a joke.

    I heard a Republican today told me they see him as a whack job, someone they don't respect. However, this was a serious video. And Democrats who have just come through January 6, like all of us, are very concerned about messages and violence.

    And, remember, in the last 10 years alone, Judy, we have had two members of Congress shot, Gabrielle Giffords, and then Steve Scalise, because of an atmosphere in this country, politics becoming violent. There is real concern that we are now back in that place we have certainly been — we were after January 6, a lot of tension and concern tonight in Congress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very worrying.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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