Murder fantasy video not a bridge too far for Iowa Republicans

Republicans talk a good game about running government like a business. But almost every U.S. House Republican balked when asked to punish conduct that would be a firing offense at just about any private company.

Like all but two of their GOP colleagues, Iowa’s Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) voted against censuring Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona and removing him from the House Oversight and Natural Resources committees.

It’s hard to imagine the outrage that would ensue if any prominent Democrat posted anything comparable to Gosar’s video, an altered anime depicting him murdering Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. Gosar’s staff used public resources to produce the video, which was posted on his official Congressional account.

Any corporation would terminate a staff member who posted on social media about killing one of his colleagues, casting himself in a heroic light. Democrats who backed the resolution, including Iowa’s Representative Cindy Axne, weren’t attempting to expel Gosar from Congress, just stop him from serving on House committees.

Those who encourage violence against a political adversary should face consequences. AOC and other members of “The Squad” are already top targets for right-wing animus who have received many death threats.

During House debate on the censure motion, Gosar denied the video was threatening and justified it as a way to call attention to “the threat immigration poses to this country.” Soon after the vote, he played the victim of “kabuki theater” and tweeted the video again to his more than 137,000 followers. (He undid that tweet a couple of hours later.)

In a written statement posted on her official website, Hinson said she strongly condemned Gosar’s behavior, adding, “Any form of violent rhetoric is unacceptable.” She went on to blame “Members of both parties” for the supposedly rising “temperature in our political discourse” and accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having an “unequal standard” for whether misconduct should lead to losing committee assignments.

Speaking of unequal standards, Hinson didn’t share that statement or post any condemnation of Gosar on her own social media feeds. She’s frequently used those platforms to criticize House Democrats.

To justify her vote in February against removing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from House committees, Hinson said Taylor Greene’s “previous rhetoric and conduct are completely unacceptable,” but “I do not believe we should set the precedent of stripping Members of their committee assignments based on their actions before they were sworn Members of Congress. […] If Congresswoman Greene makes any form of hateful statement while serving in this body moving forward, I will call on my party’s leadership to hold her accountable.”

Where was Hinson’s call on her party’s leadership to hold Gosar accountable? Pelosi gave House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a week to do something in response to the violent video. He did nothing.

Miller-Meeks and Feenstra ignored the controversy on their social media and didn’t even release written statements about Gosar’s actions or the November 17 censure vote.

If any Democrat posted a celebratory murder fantasy online, Republicans would demand apologies from every Democrat under the sun.

Final note: Before yesterday, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel was the last House member to be censured, for a range of ethics and financial disclosure violations in 2010. The roll call shows that 170 House Democrats (including Iowa’s Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and Leonard Boswell) joined almost all the Republicans (including Tom Latham and Steve King) to approve the censure motion.

Braley and Loebsack also voted against an amendment to downgrade Rangel’s censure to a reprimand, as did King and Latham. Boswell supported the lesser punishment for Rangel, who had already lost his Ways and Means Committee chairmanship during the ethics investigation.

Full text of Hinson’s statement on Gosar, from a November 17 news release:

“I strongly condemn Representative Gosar for posting a video depicting violence against another Member of Congress and the President. There is no excuse or justification for this behavior.
“Any form of violent rhetoric is unacceptable and as elected officials with large platforms we have to set the example we want the rest of the country to follow. It has been incredibly disheartening to watch Members of both parties fail at this and the temperature in our political discourse continue to rise.
“Currently, Speaker Pelosi determines what legislation comes to the Floor for a vote. While she has brought up votes against Republicans for misconduct and to remove Republicans from Committees, she has refused to do the same for Democratic Members for their own misconduct.
“Accountability for wrongdoing shouldn’t be determined by your Party, but that is the unequal standard Speaker Pelosi has decided to set.
“We have to respectfully communicate our differences on policy issues and all commit to lowering the temperature in our nation’s political discourse.” 
-Congresswoman Ashley Hinson

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