Arizona Representative Paul Gosar, the far-right Republican conspiracy theorist who unsuccessfully tried to launch a white nationalist caucus with QAnon-loving Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene earlier this year, was censured in a full vote of the House on Wednesday. At issue was an anime video that Gosar shared on social video that was doctored to depict the congressman killing other politicians. The final vote fell almost unanimously on partisan lines at 223-207-1. All but two of the 210 Republicans who voted did so to back Gosar (one voted “present”), and all 221 Democrats voted to censure him. Three Republican members didn’t vote at all.
On November 7th, Gosar posted a bizarre video to Twitter and Instagram consisting of an edited version of the intro of the anime Attack on Titan. The modified clip, which can still be seen on Reddit, features ominous images of immigrants juxtaposed alongside ones of U.S. border guards, as well as Gosar killing a giant with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face and attacking another with Joe Biden’s. Words like “drugs,” “crime,” “poverty,” “murder,” “gangs,” and “trafficking” splash across the screen alongside the original Japanese. Gosar captioned the tweet, “Any anime fans out there?” and later credited the creativity of his team. AOC later responded on social media by calling Gosar a “creepy member I work with who fundraises for neo-Nazi organisations” who “shared a fantasy video of him killing me.” She later added in an Instagram story that Gosar “couldn’t add two single digits together if he tried.”
On Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee proposed a vote among the full House to censure Gosar and strip him of his two committee assignments: the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the Committee on Natural Resources. CNN noted that the last representative to be censured was Representative Charlie Rangel for several ethics violations in 2010.
Censure is the harshest measure the House can take against a member short of expulsion. Like expulsion, which has happened only five times in U.S. history it’s very rare and considered an extraordinarily humiliating punishment. The chamber has previously voted to censure just 23 of the over 11,000 representatives to serve in the House since the founding of the nation, and those votes are often remembered as the defining moments of those members’ political careers. Of course, none of those previously censured politicians will specifically be remembered for anime shitposting.
Gosar was silent and refused to answer questions from reporters ahead of the decision to hold the censure vote, CNN reported, but he has issued a statement to media outlets saying that the video was an innocuous “symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy.” His digital director, Jessica Lycos, had also told the Post that “everyone needs to relax.”
On Wednesday, Gosar defended himself on the floor, saying he never intended for the video to be seen as a violent threat and comparing himself to Alexander Hamilton: “If I must join Alexander Hamilton the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it. It is done.” (At the time Hamilton had his own spat with Congress, he wasn’t a member but the secretary of the Treasury. The House failed to get enough votes to censure him.)
This is hardly the worst thing Gosar has done — he stands out as particularly extreme even among a Republican caucus that has lurched so far to the right that it is an international outlier and barely put up a peep after Donald Trump incited an angry mob to storm the Capitol. GOP colleagues defending Gosar are standing behind a man who was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Gosar recently complained about the reaction to his tweet on the radio show of far-right MAGA shock jock Stew Peters, who believes Fox News is staffed by “communist propagandists dressed as journalists” and has defended the Groypers, Fuentes’ fascist fanbase. So it’s hardly surprising that they don’t view Gosar’s tweet as crossing the line — they left it in the dust years ago.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who leads the GOP in the House, said that Gosar had given sufficient explanation of his actions to his Republican colleagues. A slew of Republican representatives spoke in Gosar’s defence ahead of the vote on Wednesday, with McCarthy giving a lengthy speech in which he attacked Democrats and repeated the phrase “rules for thee, not for me” an interminable number of times. Another GOP representative, Andy Biggs, went on a tangent about how he had lived in Japan, spoke Japanese, and that Attack on Titan is just “highly stylised violence.” Representative Lauren Boebert, another member of the House’s far-right cadre, prattled on about liberal ethics scandals before being cut off while yelling about rumours a Democratic representative had slept with a Chinese spy.
Twitter told the Washington Post on Monday the company had “placed a public interest notice on this Tweet as it violates our hateful conduct policy,” meaning it could be quote tweeted by other users but not otherwise engaged with. Gosar has since deleted the tweet and the Instagram post but has refused to apologise.
The anime video had more disturbing context than it might initially appear — as flagged by the New Republic back in 2020, Attack on Titan has significance to some online far-right types of the 4chan variety due to its extensive allusions to the Holocaust and Nazism. Both the original manga and the anime adaptation begin with a simple narrative about humans in a walled city living under a military regime and under constant assault from a race of giants called Titans. As the narrative goes on, though, the protagonists learn that they are members of a persecuted race called the Eldians and that more Eldians live in refugee and concentration camps across the globe that are run by their nation’s enemies; the eponymous Titans, it turns out, are actually Eldians. The whole thing has been widely interpreted as an anti-fascist and anti-racist allegory but many online neo-Nazis and white supremacists see it as an allegory for the oppression of white people by Jews and other supposed racial enemies.
Taylor-Green, Gosar’s buddy, already saw the House strip her of committee assignments earlier this year after a number of her disturbing beliefs had come to light, such as her backing of a theory that a Jewish-funded space laser started the Camp Fire in 2018, that 9/11 was an inside job, school massacres were staged with crisis actors, and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be handled with a “bullet to the head.”
A member of congress without a committee seat is largely considered to be nothing more than a powerless figurehead with nothing to offer their constituents. In an indication for what likely lays ahead for Gosar, Taylor-Greene has mostly occupied her time with sick social media stunts such as harassing the trans child of another representative and embarking on disastrous fundraising tours.
Gosar’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story, but we’ll update if we hear back.