Gosar back in spotlight with call for general to 'be hung' over Jan. 6

By Adrienne Washington/Cronkite News
Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2023 - 6:47am

Paul Gosar
Jasmine Kabiri/Cronkite News
Paul Gosar

Two years after he was formally censured for a video that appeared to espouse violence against lawmakers, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar has again grabbed headlines by saying the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be hanged in a “better society.”

The Bullhead City Republican made the comment Sunday in his weekly newsletter, in which he blamed Gen. Mark Milley for delays in deploying troops to the Capitol on Jan. 6 — citing a hearing last week that made no mention of Milley.

Analysts said that even for a “rhetorical bomb-thrower” like Gosar, the comments were surprising, but that he is unlikely to suffer any political damage from the comments from voters in his conservative district.

“There are a lot of rhetorical bomb throwers in Washington, and I don’t know if anyone surpasses Gosar in that group,” said Kyle Kondik, the editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Gosar may be the leading one.”

Neither Milley’s nor Gosar’s offices responded Monday to requests for comment on the newsletter. But one analyst said some lines should not be crossed in politics, adding that Gosar’s latest remarks crossed it.

“That type of rhetoric does not do the country any good,” said Mike Noble, CEO of Phoenix-based Noble Predictive Insights.

“When you’re getting to the level of basically making threats, death threats, and especially in this day and age, it’s incredibly irresponsible and frankly, the congressman should be ashamed of himself,” Noble said.

Noble was referring to the newsletter “This Week with Gosar,” which included a section on a House committee hearing last week into security failures during the response to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified at that hearing that he requested National Guard assistance on Jan. 3, but was turned down by Congress’ two sergeants-at-arms over concerns about the “politics and optics” of troops at the Capitol.

Sund said he asked for National Guard help again during the attack on Jan. 6, but it took more than an hour to get an OK from the sergeant-at-arms and almost five more hours in which he “had to beg” the Pentagon before Guard troops showed up.

National Guard at U.S. Capitol after Jan. 6
Master Sgt. Matt Hecht/New Jersey National Guard
New Jersey National Guard members muster at the Capitol days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police there.

Gosar, in a homophobic-laced attack in his newsletter, laid the blame for the delay squarely on Milley, whose term as Joint Chiefs chairman is over at the end of this month.

“Even after approval was given, General Milley, the homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist Chairman of the military joint chiefs, delayed,” Gosar wrote, citing Sund’s testimony, even though Sund made no mention of Milley and said he dealt directly with a different lieutenant general.

That did not stop Gosar, who branded Milley a “traitor” for a variety of perceived infractions when Milley was Joint Chiefs chairman during the Trump administration.

“In a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung,” Gosar wrote.

It’s not the first time Gosar has been criticized for extreme jabs in official publications. In 2022, Gosar his congressional account to tweet an anime cartoon that depicted the beheading of two characters – but with the faces of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and President Joe Biden pasted on the targets and Gosar’s face on the character wielding the sword.

Gosar was formally censured by the House, then controlled by Democrats, for that tweet, and was stripped of his committee assignments as a result.

With the House now in Republican hands, it is unlikely that Gosar will be censured for his latest comments. And Noble doubts they will hurt him politically, either, in a conservative western Arizona district where Gosar faced no challengers in the 2022 election.

“There’s really no consequence for doing it, at least electorally,” Noble said. “He’s got a ton of MAGA-type supporters and this type of rhetoric has kind of been accepted already.”

But Kondik notes that the state is not as solidly Republican as it once was, and that the GOP would benefit by softening its message.

“It’s a state that’s been getting more competitive. And Republicans used to have hammerlock on that state and now they don’t,” Kondik said.

“I think Republicans in (Arizona) would be wise to try to present a kind of less hard-edged message to voters,” Kondik said. “It’s kind of emblematic of some of the problems that Republicans have had in that state.”