Gosar could also join Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in losing his committee assignments. Greene was sanctioned earlier this year for, among other things, having also promoted violence against Democrats.
The process is again being spearheaded by those same Democrats, while Republicans seem prepared to mostly give Gosar a pass, as they did with Greene. Whether it actually merits censure is now being debated. But one thing is abundantly clear: The explanations for the GOP giving Gosar that pass don’t really add up.
Republicans have generally been tight-lipped about the situation since Gosar posted the video more than a week ago. They have been down this road many times in the Trump era, in which extreme lawmakers have been emboldened to do and say such things (Donald Trump himself often promoted metaphorical violence against his foes), and mum is generally the strategic word.
But the Democrats’ push to censure Gosar has now forced Republicans to weigh in. And Tuesday and Wednesday, they pretended as if Gosar had backed off.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stated that lawmakers could not “accept any action or showing of a violence to another member.” But he blamed the post on Gosar’s staff and noted that Gosar had deleted the video after they spoke on the phone about the matter.
“He didn’t see it before it posted,” McCarthy said. “It was not his intent to show any harm.”
As the House took up the matter Wednesday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said that Gosar had admitted “to a lapse of judgement,” and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) stated that Gosar "has already addressed his misguided decision.”
Even Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), one of just 11 Republicans who voted to strip Greene of her committees, said, “I thought it was despicable, but he took it down and apologized.”
That would seem to leave the impression that Gosar regretted the episode. Punchbowl News even reported Tuesday that Gosar had expressed such regret to his fellow Republican House members. It said he “apologized.”
Except Gosar himself says that didn’t happen. While touring right-wing media in his defense, Gosar said: “I explained to them what was happening. I did not apologize. I said this video didn’t have anything to do with harming anybody.”
Gosar’s office also indicated shortly after the situation blew up that there were, indeed, no regrets.
“Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said at the time.
Gosar added Tuesday that targeting the video was akin to canceling him.
“If my cartoon can be banned and my free speech is to be banned, then the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney and indeed most of Hollywood obviously could be banned as well — not to mention Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner,” he said.
This is an obviously ridiculous comparison. Cartoons are often violent; that doesn’t mean they depict violence against specific lawmakers in the aftermath of proven efforts to violently target such lawmakers. But even setting that aside, it’s about the opposite of contrition or regret. It’s Gosar saying that taking down the video was wrong, even as he submitted to it.
It’s all a rerun of the Trump era, in which Republicans often pretended that Donald Trump didn’t say what he actually said or that he had backed off it, when the available evidence clearly contradicted that.
Even Gaetz, in the same comments as above, momentarily admitted that perhaps Gosar wasn’t actually contrite.
“Congressman Gosar removed the tweet, and I hope he regrets it,” Gaetz.
That Gaetz had to express such a “hope” a week an a half later reinforces Gosar hasn’t really said what his defenders suggest he has.
The question for Republicans is whether they want to continue to humor Gosar, who has demonstrated a knack for causing them headaches. It wasn’t that long ago that he was also rather unapologetic about appearing at a forum with white nationalists. (Indeed, it’s a wonder that isn’t also mentioned in Gosar’s censure resolution.)
Democrats are in many ways doing the GOP a favor by (likely) punishing Gosar on their own. But Republicans have to wonder what’s going to be next from Gosar, who one could argue has been even more extreme than Greene but just hasn’t rallied much of a movement behind him.
Politico’s Playbook on Wednesday spotlighted what’s really behind the GOP balking at Gosar’s censure: “There’s also a concern among moderate members about having to vote to rebuke every crazy thing their colleagues say, which these days, they argue, is a lot.”
That indeed has to be a concern, just from a raw political perspective. But it is possible to set a line when it comes to promoting even metaphorical violence against your colleagues, especially since we’ve seen people act upon that on multiple occasions in recent years (see: Scalise, Gabby Giffords, Jan. 6, increasing threats against lawmakers, etc.). Deeming everything to be a slippery slope is a recipe for letting pretty much everything slide.
And it would indeed be an invitation for the likes of Gosar to continue causing them problems, which he clearly has few true regrets about doing, given his most recent comments and his recent track record.
As usual, though, the approach seems to be to pretend that the problem isn’t a problem — because recognizing it could lead to a backlash by the base — and to hope it goes away. Good luck with that.
This post has been updated with details from the debate on the House floor.