Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona created a new controversy for himself this week, releasing an altered anime video in which his 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.
Not surprisingly, a political backlash is underway. The Washington Post reported:
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.... "Threats of violence against Members of Congress and the President of the United States must not be tolerated," Pelosi said.
The Democratic Speaker recommended scrutiny from both the House Ethics Committee and outside law enforcement. The House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee 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 — Pennsylvania's Matthew Cartwright, Michigan's Debbie Dingell, California's Ted Lieu, and Colorado's Joe Neguse — said in a joint statement.
For his part, the far-right Arizonan suggested yesterday he was the victim of a "gross mischaracterization," adding his video — which has since been taken down — was "truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy."
Gosar's statement added, "I do not espouse violence or harm towards any Member of Congress or Mr. Biden." (He probably meant "President Biden.")
Of course, it's not as if the Republican congressman has earned the benefit of the doubt or widespread goodwill. As we discussed yesterday, Gosar is 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.
But more important than Gosar's attempt at an underwhelming defense is the reaction from his party. The prevailing question yesterday wasn't whether the far-right Arizonan had crossed another line, it was what House Republican leaders intended to do about it.
As of this morning, the answer is plain: Nothing. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has plenty of options for dealing with circumstances like these — there's even some relevant precedent, given the GOP leader's abandonment of Iowa's Steve King a few years ago — but the would-be Republican Speaker has, for now, chosen not to respond at all.
Whether McCarthy realizes this or not, the more indifference he expresses to radicalism in his ranks, the more he invites more radicalism.