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New Paul Gosar controversy puts pressure on Republican leaders

The latest Paul Gosar controversy is a new challenge for House GOP leaders: The more radicalism Kevin McCarthy tolerates, the worse the problem becomes.

Rep. Paul Gosar did not need a new controversy. The Arizona Republican had already earned a reputation as one of Congress' most notorious members, having been condemned for his associations with white nationalists, his praise for insurrectionist rioters, and his anti-election efforts.

It's against this backdrop that NBC News reported late yesterday on the GOP congressman's latest misconduct.

Gosar shared an altered video Sunday evening in which he and other Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, are depicted as heroes from the Japanese anime series "Attack on Titan." The post-apocalyptic series revolves around a small civilization that lives in a bordered-off city to protect itself from giant human-like creatures called Titans.

In the altered animation, Gosar's character kills a character with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's face and attacks a different character with President Joe Biden's face.

Twitter added a warning label to the Republican's tweet, describing it as "hateful content." The congressman's office acknowledged that it was responsible for the creation of the video.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California characterized Gosar's actions as "sick behavior," adding, "In any workplace in America, if a coworker made an anime video killing another coworker, that person would be fired."

That's true. It's also why, in the wake of this new controversy, it'd be a mistake to focus attention solely on the Arizonan. Just as important is the House Republican leadership, which can either ignore Gosar's scandals or take action to address them.

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez predicted last night that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would do nothing except cheer Gosar on "with excuses." A great many other Democratic lawmakers also condemned Gosar's video and demanded action from his party.

All of which leaves the ball in McCarthy's court. The GOP leader has plenty of options: McCarthy could endorse Gosar's expulsion, support a censure resolution, strip the Arizonan of his committee assignments, announce that the NRCC will not support Gosar's re-election campaign, etc.

And who knows, maybe the would-be House Speaker will surprise everyone and take meaningful action against Gosar. Maybe releasing a video about a murder fantasy against a sitting member of Congress will be the thing that pushes McCarthy to finally give up on Gosar — the way McCarthy gave up on Iowa's Steve King a few years ago.

Time will tell. But my best guess is that the House GOP leadership will say something mild and meaningless about the "tone" on Capitol Hill, before waiting for the story to fade away, at least until Gosar's next outrage.

The more McCarthy tolerates his members' radicalism, the more radicalism our system will be asked to endure.