A Republican member of Congress is being heavily criticized after tweeting a doctored image of former president Barack Obama shaking hands with the current President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. And some critics are wondering whether he might be formally disciplined or investigated for his actions.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) shared the image on Monday afternoon with the caption: “The world is a better place without these guys in power.”
The world is a better place without these guys in power. pic.twitter.com/gDoXQu9vO5
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) January 6, 2020
Somewhat ironically, the doctored photograph of Obama shaking hands with Iran’s moderate—and still in office—president was based on an actual image of Obama shaking hands with India’s far-right and Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narenda Modi.
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) January 6, 2020
Twitter users immediately cried foul and attempted to correct the record.
a few things:
1) this picture is photoshopped, a fake.
2) Rouhani is still in power
3) Paul Gosar was one of the dumbest members of Congress even before this tweet https://t.co/98k2KKKhKi
— joe perticone (@JoePerticone) January 6, 2020
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) January 6, 2020
Gosar later shot back at his detractors with the almost-equally-derided defense that “no one said this wasn’t photoshopped.”
Aside from the plentiful takedowns, corrections and snark, some Twitter users alleged that Gosar may have been in violation of his ethical obligations as a representative.
Former White House ethics attorney Walter Shaub publicly asked the Congressional Ethics Committee to look into Gosar’s behavior.
Question for @CongressEthics: House ethics standards require Members to “Conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.” Does a Member falsely disseminating a doctored photograph of a former president reflect creditably on the House?
“It’s disgusting that a U.S. representative would disseminate misinformation like this,” Shaub noted in an earlier tweet.
One-time Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart also called for an Ethics Committee investigation:
The House Ethics Committee needs to investigate Rep. Gosar. This is not harmless fun. In fact its so serious our last election may have turned on techniques like these. @SpeakerPelosi https://t.co/snJmuiZcuk
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) January 6, 2020
As of this writing, the Ethics Committee had yet to publicly weigh in on the controversy but that didn’t stop several users from attempting to force some resolution of the issue. Multiple posts in response to Shaub’s tweet contained screenshot which purported to show official ethics complaints filed with the committee.
The racial element of Gosar’s tweet is also notable—-especially in the context of the current foreign policy crisis involving the Islamic Republic and the widespread concern that President Donald Trump’s unauthorized assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani could trigger a new war in the Middle East.
yall the pt is not that the Gosar picture is fake it's that the fake picture amplifies an anti-Muslim birther conspiracy
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) January 6, 2020
This isn’t the first racist controversy that’s engulfed the Arizona Republican. In 2018, several of Gosar’s siblings recorded a series of ads for his losing Democratic Party opponent. In some of those ads, Gosar’s own family members repeatedly called him a “racist.”
Monday’s sharing of the doctored Obama-Rouhani photo brought new life to those racial criticisms—as well as another source of sarcastic jabbing:
Here’s a photograph of all the Gosar family members who love & respect Paul. pic.twitter.com/9fjuo5Njgy
— kevin (@KevINthe406) January 6, 2020
[image via Tom Williams/Getty Images]