Two Republicans voted with all 221 House Democrats on Wednesday to censure Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar over a violent video, with a number of women lawmakers discussing the wider implications and threats to their safety, particularly in the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The animated video Gosar posted to Twitter last week depicted him killing New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. He deleted the tweet but refused to apologize for its content.
During debate over the censure resolution on the House floor, several Republican lawmakers downplayed the severity of Gosar’s video and accused Democrats of abusing their power. Ocasio-Cortez criticized Republicans for failing to hold their colleague accountable.
“What is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But, this is about what we are willing to accept,” she said on the House floor during debate. “When we incite violence, with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.”
Multiple Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, harkened back to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol that happened 10 months ago. Several women lawmakers, including Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, were specifically named by rioters, and the text of resolution censuring Gosar pointed to the significance of the threats against women in politics overall.
“Depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021,” Pelosi said on the chamber floor Wednesday. “These threats specifically target a woman, a woman of color, which is part — as the resolution states — of a global phenomenon meant to silence women that discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life.”
On the House floor, Gosar claimed that he and his staff did not mean the video as a threat. As part of the censure resolution, Gosar is stripped of his appointments on the committees on Natural Resources and on Oversight and Reform. He is the 24th U.S. House member to be censured, the last such sanction taking place in 2010 for ethics violations.
Gosar is not the first Republican this year to lose committee assignments. In February, the House voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees for expressing support for conspiracy theories, racist online posts, and comments calling for the execution of Democratic lawmakers. Eleven Republicans voted to remove Greene from her committees, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who with Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming joined Democrats in voting Wednesday to censure Gosar.
Women lawmakers, particularly those of color, have been targets of a growing number of threats in recent years. A 2016 report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union found that 82 percent of women lawmakers in 39 countries reported having experienced some form of psychological violence while serving their terms. An Amnesty International study examining abusive or “problematic” tweets targeted at women journalists and politicians in the United States and UK in 2017 found that women of color were 34 percent more likely than White women to be mentioned in such posts.
On the House floor Wednesday, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams recalled having to hire security for herself and her family after January 6. “I never imagined having to drop my kindergartener off at school with security in tow,” Williams said.
In ending her statement, Ocasio-Cortez rejected some Republicans’ defense that Gosar’s actions were a joke, adding that such a claim reduces the significance of the lawmakers’ work.
“I grew up as a little girl with awe about our nation’s Capitol: the reverence and the importance and the gravity of our work here,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Will we live up to the promises that we make our children that this is a place where we will defend one another regardless of belief, that our core human dignity matters?”