September 26, 2020

Ocasio-Cortez Embraces a Republican’s Insult

WASHINGTON — Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term New Yorker who is a favorite of the progressive left and a frequent target of President Trump and Republicans, said on Tuesday that she had been the victim of “virulent harassment” by a Republican congressman who referred to her with a pair of expletives on the steps of the Capitol.

In a confrontation on Monday outside the Capitol reported by The Hill newspaper, Representative Ted Yoho of Florida approached Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and told her she was “disgusting” for suggesting that poverty and unemployment were driving a rise in crime in New York City.

After a brief and tense exchange, the newspaper said, Mr. Yoho walked away from Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, uttering a pair of expletives.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, confirmed the exchange on Twitter on Tuesday, though a spokesman for Mr. Yoho later denied that the congressman had called her any names, saying he had instead used a barnyard epithet to describe what he thought of her policies.

But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who arrived on Capitol Hill in 2019 with an outsize profile — a Hispanic progressive who is the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress — and has frequently been a target of derision by white Republican men, sought to turn the insult to her advantage.

“I never spoke to Rep. Yoho before he decided to accost me on the steps of the nation’s Capitol yesterday,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Believe it or not, I usually get along fine w/ my GOP colleagues. We know how to check our legislative sparring at the committee door. But hey, ‘b*tches’ get stuff done.”

As news of the episode spread on Capitol Hill, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, called for Mr. Yoho to formally apologize to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on the House floor, saying his actions were “despicable.”

“It was an act of a bully,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, said he was unsure about the facts of the altercation, but met with Mr. Yoho to discuss what had happened.

“We think everyone should show respect to one another,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters.

A spokesman for Mr. Yoho denied the episode took place in the way that several witnesses described, and criticized Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for “using this exchange to gain personal attention.”

“He did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in The Hill or any name for that matter,” the spokesman, Brian Kaveney, said in an email. “Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her policies to be.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has frequently been attacked by Republicans since she was elected to Congress.

The week she was sworn in, Republicans booed her on the House floor as she cast her vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

Last year, the House took the unusual step of voting to condemn as racist Mr. Trump’s attacks against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen of color, after he said they should “go back” to their countries. (Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York.)

Several male lawmakers, mostly Democrats, expressed outrage on Twitter on Tuesday on behalf of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, with some suggesting that Mr. Yoho’s attack reflected how conservatives have sought to demonize her because of her gender and race.

“Like @aoc, I believe poverty to be a root cause of crime,” Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota, wrote. “Wonder why Rep. Yoho hasn’t accosted me on the Capitol steps with the same sentiment? #shameful.”

Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, wrote: “I have suggested the same thing that @aoc has poverty & unemployment lead to crime. Weird neither Yoho or any other member has ever talked to me that way.”

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.