Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared an altered, animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden, prompting condemnation and calls for his Twitter and Instagram accounts to be suspended.
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.
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.
Gosar has long drawn criticism for his extremist views, including his spreading of conspiracy theories 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In another scene, Gosar swings two swords at a foe whose face has been replaced by that of Biden.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.
Ocasio-Cortez responded Monday night, noting that while she was traveling to Glasgow, “a creepy member I work with who fundraises for Neo-Nazi groups shared a fantasy video of him killing me.”
In June, Gosar denied that he planned to attend a fundraiser with a group that promotes white-nationalist ideas, despite an invitation for the event that featured him alongside Nick Fuentes, a far-right operative who leads America First.
The congressman will “face no consequences bc @GOPLeader cheers him on with excuses,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, without naming Gosar.
“Fun Monday! Well, back to work bc institutions don’t protect woc,” she said, referring to women of color.
In a follow-up tweet, Ocasio-Cortez listed several times she was accosted or harassed at the Capitol by GOP members of Congress, including Greene and Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.).
“All at my job,” she tweeted, along with an upside-down smiley face. “[And] nothing ever happens.”
Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy said late Monday that the company has “placed a public interest notice on this Tweet as it violates our hateful conduct policy.”
“As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited. People will be able to Quote Tweet the Tweet, but will not be able to Like, Reply or Retweet it,” Kennedy said in an email.
The message placed on Gosar’s tweet reads: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about hateful conduct. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) criticized Gosar in a tweet Monday morning in which he also tagged McCarthy.
“Happy Monday in America, where @GOPLeader McCarthy’s colleague just posted a video of himself swinging two swords at President Biden,” Swalwell said in the tweet. “These blood thirsty losers are more comfortable with violence than voting. Keep exposing them.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also denounced the video, arguing that “in any workplace in America, if a coworker made an anime video killing another coworker, that person would be fired.”
“This is sick behavior from Rep. Paul Gosar,” Lieu tweeted.
Scores of Twitter users also flagged Gosar’s tweet as a potential violation of the social media service’s rules, which prohibit violent threats and the glorification of violence. Instagram’s community guidelines prohibit “credible threats of violence, hate speech and the targeting of private individuals.”
Lycos, Gosar’s digital director, dismissed the criticism in a statement Monday night.
“We made an anime video,” she said. “Everyone needs to relax. The left doesn’t get meme culture. They have no joy. They are not the future. It’s a cartoon. Gosar can’t fly and he does not own any light sabers. Nor was violence glorified. This is about fighting for truth.”
Spokespeople for McCarthy and Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
After tweeting about the lack of repercussions for lawmakers who harass or threaten their colleagues, Ocasio-Cortez added her personal thoughts about Gosar.
“This dude is a just a collection of wet toothpicks anyway,” she said. “White supremacy is for extremely fragile people &sad men like him, whose self concept relies on the myth that he was born superior because deep down he knows he couldn’t open a pickle jar or read a whole book by himself.”
Aaron Schaffer and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.