Editorials, Opinion

Gosar’s conduct is unbecoming of a U.S. representative

On Sunday, Nov. 14, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) posted to Twitter and Instagram a video created by his campaign that depicted him committing violence against fellow representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and President Biden.

The New York Times describes the now unavailable video: “The 90-second clip appears to be an altered version of the opening credits of the Japanese animated series ‘Attack on Titan.’ … 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 In another scene, Gosar swings two swords at a foe whose face has been replaced by that of Biden.”

Last week, the House of Representatives moved to censure Gosar and strip him of his committee assignment. According to The Fulcrum, censure is “a more severe formal rebuke than reprimanding, but doesn’t go as far as expelling the lawmaker from the House.” All Democrats voted to rebuke him, as did Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. All West Virginia representatives voted against the censure. During the proceedings, Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed vengeance on Democrats.

Multiple Twitter users flagged the video as violating the platform’s policies, and, at one point, Twitter had labeled the video as displaying hateful content but that it was of public interest because of Gosar’s position in the government — much like Trump’s tweets were before Jan. 6. Gosar took down the video shortly before he was censured, then put it back up after he was censured, before taking it down once again.

The phrase that came to mind when we first heard about the video was “conduct unbecoming” — something more often heard in military or law enforcement. It actually has a legal definition: “conduct on the part of a certified professional that is contrary to the public interests, or which harms his/her standing of the profession in the eyes of the public,” according to U.S. Legal.

The halls of the Capitol have, unfortunately, become a place of vitriol and spite. But in what universe is it acceptable to share a video depicting someone killing a coworker?

Seven months ago, in February, all Democrats and 11 Republicans in the House voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene of her committee assignments for espousing conspiracy theories. They had seen the month before just how dangerous such behavior could be.

Gosar and his team tried to shrug the video off as a “joke,” but a joke is meant to make people laugh — not fear for their safety.

Leaders’ words have a powerful impact on the people. The death and destruction of Jan. 6 are evidence there are far too many people who take a “joke” seriously and will do as their leaders command. Is Gosar actually going to take a knife to AOC? Unlikely. But one of Gosar’s more ardent supporters might try to harm her — either to prove their loyalty to Gosar or because they think they have the Republican Party’s blessing.  The fact that  Republicans in the House refuse to acknowledge how Gosar’s actions could have a very real impact on Ocasio-Cortez’s safety shows just how far the party has fallen — and how quickly.

Congressional Democrats aren’t angels, but they haven’t directly threatened their colleagues’ lives. We’d like to hope they wouldn’t defend such despicable behavior the way Gosar’s peers have.

Moderates — like Sen. Joe Manchin — insist that there needs to be more bipartisanship in Congress, but how can one party be expected to work with the other when the other party wants to see them dead?