Floor Speech on H. Res. 789, Censuring Rep. Paul Gosar

November 17, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H. Res. 789, to censure Congressman Paul Gosar.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for his recognition and for his distinguished service as the Chair of the Ethics Committee – to call it by it’s official name, having served there seven years myself.

Madam Speaker, I rise today as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, an institution that was designed by our Founders to be the People’s House.  A House constantly invigorated by accountability to the people every year.  A place where slavery was abolished.  A place where we have taken our men and women into service to protect freedom and democracy throughout the world.  A place where Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and so many institutions meeting the needs of the American people were established. 

The list goes on and on about the distinguished nature of the House of Representatives.  Maybe 12 – 13,000 people have been elected to this body over time – only a few hundred women, but all very distinguished.  And great heroes of our country have served in this institution, including President Abraham Lincoln.  That was before the chamber was the meeting grounds, was when the – Statuary Hall was where his desk is memorialized to this day, the place where his desk was.

So, when we come to this great institution, we understand that there are 435 Members of Congress.  But only one from each district.  Only one of us is – represents these thoughts, aspirations, dreams, fears and hopes of our constituents.  There is no bigger privilege for any one of us in the House, be as Speaker, Whip, Leader, any of the titles that our Caucuses may bestow on us, that is as prestigious as to saying: ‘I speak for the people of my district.’  In my case, the district of San Francisco.

So, when we come here, we have a responsibility to uphold the high standard of integrity, decency and respect for this institution.  The Constitution charges us to be accountable to the people, and we must represent the United States House of Representatives in a spirit in which our constituents and all Americans should be very proud. 

House Rule XXIII provides for our Code of Official Conduct.  This provision of our rules requires that we, quote, ‘shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect credibly on the House.’  Sadly, extremely disturbing actions taken last week by a Member of Congress threatening another Member wildly violate this standard.  These actions demand a response.  We cannot have Members joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States.  This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives.

It's not just about us as Members of Congress.  It is a danger that represents to everyone in the country.  If you are viewing this and thinking, ‘Well, when you run for Congress, you get threats and the rest’ – you don’t expect to get them from your colleagues, but nonetheless.  The example set in this House is one that is viewed across the country.  Women across the country particularly feel vulnerable if insults of the nature that exist in this House are allowed to stand.  I'll speak about that in a moment. 

Again, when a Member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen to those words, and they can – may act upon them.  Words spoken by elected officials weigh a ton.  People hear them very differently.  As the Resolution that the Committee is putting forth states, ‘depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021.’  It is inconceivable that a member of our community here would wish to repeat the violence of that dark day – that deadly day. 

As a woman Speaker of the House, I want to be clear: these threats specifically target a woman, a woman of color, which is part, as the resolution states, ‘a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them for seeking positions of authority and participating in public life.’  Again, this is about workplace harassment and violence against women. 

Yet, the Member has never apologized for his actions.  ‘It's a cartoon.  Relax,’ he said.  Really?  A cartoon?  Relax?  And he wrote to supporters: ‘This hyperventilating and shrill accusations that this cartoon is dangerous, are laughable or intentionally hyperbolic.  I'm entitled to speak to the people and to do so in a manner that is engaging,’ he said.  Really?  Is it engaging to depict killing a colleague, or anyone?  It's not just about Members of Congress – anyone, threatening anyone. 

Disguising death threats against a Member of Congress and a President of the United States is an – in an animated video does not make those death threats any less real or less serious.  And indeed, conveying them this way makes them potentially more dangerous by normalizing violence.  It isn't funny.  And yes, you have a right to speak, and so do we have a right to react to what you are saying when you are threatening the lives of Members of Congress and the President of the United States. 

It is sad that this entire House must take this step because of the refusal of the leadership of the other party.  Indeed, it took nine days for the Minority Leader publicly spoke out about this threat.  And when did he, he merely said, ‘It was not the Member's intent to ever harm anyone.’  Really?  And many other Members on the other side of the aisle have refused to strongly condemn these actions.  One Member of leadership said, ‘Unfortunately, in this world we’re in right now, we all get death threats, no matter what the issue is.’  Death threats from our colleagues?  Death threats from Members of Congress?  ‘We all get death threats’ –no.  Members think it is okay to use their platforms to directly encourage more death threats against their own colleagues? 

The resolution on the Floor today is about accountability.  It is about integrity in this House.  And it will serve as a reminder, to this Congress and to this country that the House is committed to upholding the highest standards of decorum in all that we do.  As is said in Rule XXIII: ‘shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect credibly on the House.’  In our actions, we must be mindful of all who make up our Congressional community, including not only Members, but also the Committees, the Committee staff, the institutional staff – and thank you for your service – the custodians of the Capitol, the Capitol Police and others. 

As we proceed to make progress For The People, let us be guided by our love of this institution, respect for this institution in which we serve – and again, an example that we wish to show to the world.  And again, a threat against anyone is wrong, whether you are a Member of Congress or not.

So this is just about the example, again, that is in total violation by the action of the Member.  Yes, indeed, Madam Speaker, it is a sad day for the House of Representatives.  But, a necessary day, so that we can again behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect credibly on the House.

With that, I thank the distinguished Chairman again.  I thank Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her leadership in bringing this legislation forward, this motion – resolution forward, and yield back the balance of my time.