The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pelosi calls for investigations of Gosar’s video that depicts him killing Ocasio-Cortez

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called for multiple investigations into the posting of an animated video by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden.

In a tweet, Pelosi urged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to join in condemning the “horrific video” and supporting investigations by the House Ethics Committee and law enforcement.

“Threats of violence against Members of Congress and the President of the United States must not be tolerated,” Pelosi said.

Gosar later issued a statement Tuesday night in which he defended the video as “a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy” and said he does not “espouse violence or harm towards any Member of Congress or Mr. Biden.”

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Nov. 9 condemned the posting of an animated video by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.). (Video: Reuters)

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment on Pelosi’s request and did not respond Monday to questions about the video.

Rep. Paul Gosar tweets altered anime video showing him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also weighed in on the controversy Tuesday, writing in blunt tweet: “What a disgusting video from a pathetic man.”

Pelosi’s statement echoed one issued earlier by the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which also called for an ethics investigation.

“In any other job in America, if a coworker made a video killing another coworker, that person would be fired,” the group’s co-chairs — Reps. Matthew Cartwright (Pa.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Joe Neguse (Colo.) — said in a joint statement.

“Mr. McCarthy needs to decide whether he will finally stand with the American people on the side of law and order or he will continue to support violence and chaos,” the Democratic lawmakers added.

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the video but also said the White House will leave it up to social media companies to decide how to address the issue.

“There is absolutely no place for fear of any kind and no place for any violence of any sort in this political system. . . . And it should not be happening and we should be condemning it,” she told reporters at Tuesday’s regular news briefing.

Gosar’s video also drew condemnation Tuesday from the Anti-Defamation League, which said Gosar “has repeatedly palled around with white supremacists, given a platform to Holocaust deniers, and now is openly embracing violence against political opponents.”

The group said Gosar should be censured and stripped of his committee assignments and said McCarthy has “a moral responsibility to no longer remain silent.”

In a lengthy statement Tuesday night, Gosar said the video “depicts the symbolic nature of a battle between lawful and unlawful policies” on immigration. He took aim at what he described as a “gross mischaracterization of a short anime video produced by his office.”

The depiction of Ocasio-Cortez in the video represents “the Democrats’ open border amnesty agenda included in the Build Back Better Plan,” Gosar said, while the depiction of Biden represents the president’s immigration policies.

“The video depicts the fight taking place next week on the House floor . . . and was not meant to depict any harm or violence against anyone portrayed in the anime,” Gosar said in the statement, which was first reported by Politico.

Gosar has long drawn criticism for his extremist views, including his spreading of baseless accusations about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. In February, he appeared at an event whose organizer called for white supremacy. Gosar later distanced himself from the organizer’s remarks.

The congressman’s Sunday night post — which he shared on Twitter and Instagram — appeared to go further than his previous contentious remarks and social media posts, raising the specter of political violence in a manner similar to former president Donald Trump’s frequent allusions to armed revolution.

“Any anime fans out there?” Gosar said in the tweet in which he shared a link to the video.

The 90-second clip appears to be an altered version of the opening credits of the Japanese animated series “Attack on Titan.” The show revolves around a hero who sets out to destroy the Titans, giant creatures that have devoured nearly all of human civilization. In recent years, Internet users have turned the show’s opening credits into a popular meme.

In the video Gosar posted, the congressman is depicted fighting the Titans alongside Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.). In one scene, Ocasio-Cortez’s face is edited over one of the Titans’ faces. Gosar flies into the air and slashes the Titan in the back of the neck, killing it.

In another scene, Gosar swings two swords at a foe whose face has been replaced by that of Biden.

The animated scenes of the video are interspersed with real-life footage of Border Patrol officers, some standing shoulder-to-shoulder and others on horseback rounding up migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In one scene, footage of migrants crossing the Rio Grande is overlaid with what appears to be splattered blood. In another, the words “drugs,” “crime,” “poverty,” “money,” “murder,” “gangs,” “violence” and “trafficking” flash across the screen. The video also features shots of Gosar, the Capitol and migrant caravans.

A Gosar staffer defended the video Monday night, dismissing claims that it glorifies violence.

“Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said in a statement.

Among those who condemned the video Monday night were Gosar’s sister, Jennifer Gosar, who was critical of leaders of both parties for not taking action against Gosar in the wake of other controversial actions.

Appearing on MSNBC, Jennifer Gosar said her brother’s behavior is “getting worse because he has not been held accountable.”

“Where are these people? Does he need to act on his sociopathic fantasy?” she asked.

Ocasio-Cortez responded Monday night after arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a congressional delegation. Gosar, she said, will probably “face no consequences” because McCarthy “cheers him on with excuses.”

A Twitter spokesperson said late Monday that a “public interest notice” had been placed on Gosar’s tweet because it violates the company’s policy against hateful conduct.