IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The problem with Kevin McCarthy's overdue reaction to Paul Gosar

It took more than a week, but Kevin McCarthy finally commented on Paul Gosar's latest controversy. His reaction was as underwhelming as it was overdue.

It was nine days ago when Republican Rep. Paul Gosar thought it'd be a good idea to release a new online video. In the edited anime clip, the Arizonan is depicted as a character who kills Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Joe Biden.

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, though Gosar's office took it down two days after the clip created a national controversy.

The GOP lawmaker, not surprisingly, faced widespread condemnations, but so too did House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who ignored calls for public comment about Gosar and his latest misconduct.

More than a week later, McCarthy finally said something yesterday to CNN.

"[Gosar] took the video down and he made a statement that he doesn't support violence to anybody. Nobody should have violence [against them]," the California Republican told CNN. "I called him when I heard about the video, and he made a statement that he doesn't support violence, and he took the video down."

The minority leader made nearly identical comments to Politico yesterday afternoon.

To be sure, McCarthy's comments were not factually wrong. It took a couple of days, but Gosar did take down the video. The far-right Arizonan also issued a written statement, insisting that the clip was benign, and adding that he doesn't support political violence, despite the release of a video in which he was depicted killing one of his congressional colleagues.

Gosar also issued a follow-up statement in which he presented himself as a victim of "faux outrage," which he considers "infantile."

What McCarthy did not do, however, is criticize Gosar or condemn the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the Arizonan's antics.

As we discussed last week, the House GOP leader — the would-be House Speaker — has plenty of options. McCarthy could endorse Gosar's expulsion, support a censure resolution, strip Gosar of his committee assignments, announce that the NRCC will not support the congressman's re-election campaign, etc.

Indeed, McCarthy has some experience in this area, having given up on Iowa's Steve King a few years ago.

But as of yesterday, with a few underwhelming sentences, the Republican leader instead implied Gosar resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

Last week, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney not only endorsed Gosar's censure, she also pressed Republican leaders to step up and do the right thing.

"It's a real symbol of his lack of strength, the lack of leadership in our conference right now, and the extent to which he and other leaders seem to have lost their moral compass," the congresswoman told the Associated Press. Cheney went on to marvel at the fact that McCarthy "will not stand against" an "avowed white nationalist in Rep. Gosar who has posted a video advocating the killing of another member."

It was against this backdrop that the GOP leader effectively excused Gosar yesterday.

I have a hunch House Democrats will be less charitable. Last week, a group of Democratic lawmakers announced plans to introduce a censure resolution against Gosar, which was formally unveiled on Friday. On its first day, the measure had 60 original co-sponsors, and yesterday, as members returned to Capitol Hill, the total reached 78 co-sponsors.

Chances are, that total will continue to rise.