For years in Congress, the unofficial rule of receiving death threats was to avoid talking about them. That seems to have changed.
As the House debated last week whether to censure Paul Gosar, a far-right congressman from Arizona, for posting an altered anime video depicting him killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive from New York, something unusual happened. Speaking one after the other, lawmakers delivered candid and raw confessionals about the frequency with which they, too, had received violent threats.
Nikema Williams, a freshman Democrat from Georgia, described how strange it felt to drop off her child at kindergarten flanked by security officers. Jackie Walorski, a veteran Republican from Indiana, disclosed that an activist had recently tried to run her over with his car.
“The threat of actual violence against members of Congress is real, and it is growing,” said Ted Deutch of Florida, a Democrat who leads the House Ethics Committee. “Now more than ever, many of us fear for our physical safety.”
I’ve covered Congress for more than three years, and those lawmakers’ testimonials struck me as evidence of the extent to which the rising threat of political violence has loomed over American politics since the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters.
But the Republican response to Gosar’s eventual censure was just as striking: Party leaders in the House pointedly refused to condemn the video, and their rank and file nearly unanimously closed ranks around Gosar. A dozen or so Republicans huddled in solidarity around him as he was censured.
The vote was intended to showcase accountability for political violence. Instead, it revealed a more worrying trend: a growing tolerance in the Republican Party for the menacing, incendiary rhetoric increasingly espoused by its loudest voices. It was a preview of what could become the new status quo in Washington.
How we got here
The timeline that culminated in Gosar’s censure began when he posted the video this month. A crudely edited work, it depicted him slashing Ocasio-Cortez’s neck and swinging swords at President Biden.
Gosar, who has allied himself with white nationalists, refused to apologize. He insisted the video was meant to depict a “symbolic” policy battle over immigration.
But it was clear that the shadow of the January attack on the Capitol hung over last week’s proceedings. Democrats warned that Gosar’s comments could be perceived as the same kind of call to arms made by Donald Trump on Jan. 6 when he encouraged his supporters at a rally to march on Congress and “fight like hell.”
And while Gosar’s video was the most provocative display of violence amplified by a sitting member of Congress, it was just the latest example of Republican lawmakers using viciously suggestive language.
In the days and weeks before the riot, Trump’s closest allies in the House, including Gosar, used bellicose, inflammatory rhetoric to encourage their followers to fight against Biden’s victory. They falsely suggested that Trump was the victim of an attempted “coup” and cast Jan. 6 as the party’s “1776 moment.”
While politically motivated violence targeting lawmakers — in both parties — is not a new phenomenon, the Capitol Police say they have seen a rapid uptick in violent threats and messages over the past five years, as Trump’s style of politics became mainstream. A spokesman declined to break down the threats by party, but a review of court records indicates that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been targeted.
Democrats stripped Gosar of his posts on two House committees. But his exile might not last long. Republicans are already vowing political retribution if they take back the House.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, told reporters that he would return Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican whom Democrats also booted off committees for violent comments, to their panel assignments if Republicans take back the majority in 2023. And McCarthy reiterated that Republicans would consider kicking some Democrats out of their committee seats.
Shortly after he was censured, Gosar retweeted his original violent video, and Trump rolled out a fresh endorsement of him.
The act of congressional censure is meant to cast a shadow of disgrace over a lawmaker for politicians and voters alike to see. Instead, by rallying around Gosar, Republican leaders conveyed their implicit support, even as they publicly but vaguely denounced violence.
Those ramifications will stretch beyond Gosar’s political standing.
“This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar,” Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor. “This is about what we are willing to accept.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Wisconsin Parade Crash
At least five people are dead and 40 others wounded after an S.U.V. plowed into a holiday parade in a Milwaukee suburb.
The police said a person was in custody.
“The car just flew past us, there was a lot of panic,” one 14-year-old who was marching in the parade said.
Other Big Stories
Two of the 17 aid workers kidnapped more than a month ago in Haiti were released.
Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who disappeared from public view after accusing a former government official of sexual assault, held a video call.
Israel has repeatedly attacked Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities, but Tehran seems to be building them back quickly.
From the weekend: Cobalt is key to an eco-friendly future. The quest to obtain it is a story of exploitation.
Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss what they’re thankful for.
In the French and British Embassies in Washington, the Hundred Years’ War is still raging, Maureen Dowd writes.
A.I.: A robot helped write this book review.
Quiz time: The average score on our latest news quiz was 9.2. How well can you do?
Advice from Wirecutter: How to clean vinyl records.
Lives Lived: Mick Rock’s images of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry and others made him one of rock and pop’s most acclaimed photographers. Rock died at 72.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The real ‘House of Gucci’
From those first photos of Lady Gaga and Adam Driver in over-the-top après-ski looks on set, it was clear the biopic “House of Gucci” would be a spectacle. Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, the former wife of Maurizio Gucci, heir to the luxury brand’s fortune. In 1998, Reggiani — dubbed “the Black Widow” in the Italian press — was convicted of plotting Gucci’s murder.
Before her divorce from Gucci, Reggiani was an eccentric among the Italian jet set — she once said, “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.” After Gucci was shot outside his Milan office in 1995, Reggiani told friends and reporters that she had wanted him dead. In her diary, on the day Gucci was killed, there was a single-word entry: “Paradeisos,” the Greek word for “paradise.”
In 1998, The Times called Reggiani’s trial “the ultimate real-life soap opera.” It combined “some of the country’s favorite obsessions: sex, money, designer footwear and astrology.” (Reggiani’s personal psychic was among the co-conspirators, admitting that she helped hire the man who shot Gucci at her client’s instruction.)
Reggiani spent 16 years in prison. Since getting out, The Guardian reports, she has often been photographed around Milan with a parrot perched on her shoulder.
More on the film: The Times has a Q. and A. with the costume designer, and The Cut breaks down some of the movie’s … colorful accents. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
The pangram from Friday’s Spelling Bee was familiarly. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.