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HuffPost reports that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the head of the “Democratic socialist” movement in Congress and once a star surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has “backed away” from the Sanders campaign and is refusing to stump for the Senator amid a disagreement over podcast host Joe Rogan.
Ocasio-Cortez hit the trail for Sanders in Iowa, stumping for Sanders in college towns where Democratic socialism is a major draw and, some experts contend, could have been responsible for Sanders’ narrow Iowa win. But after Sanders’ team touted a clip from Rogan’s show, in which the controversial host said he’d likely cast his Democratic primary vote for Sanders, things got frosty.
“After the Iowa caucuses, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir asked Ocasio-Cortez to stump for Sanders in New Hampshire, according to the sources,” per HuffPo. “The campaign prepared a model schedule to highlight the kind of popular support she would expect if she attended, one of the people familiar with the talks said.”
The campaign was ultimately able to drag Ocasio-Cortez out to New Hampshire for an apperance alongside the rock band, The Strokes, but a person familiar with the negotiations told HuffPo that it was like “pulling teeth” to get the New York Democrat to agree to the trip.
After New Hampshire, Ocasio-Cortez took a three-week vacation from the Sanders campaign, reappearing only last week at a Sanders rally at the University of Michigan.
“The absence of the popular progressive lawmaker on the trail in the weeks that followed was even more notable. In nearly a month that passed from Feb. 11 until March 8 ― two days before the Michigan primary ― Ocasio-Cortez declined multiple invitations from Sanders’ campaign to speak on his behalf in Nevada, South Carolina and the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday,” Huffpo said.
She appeared on cable news the day after the Michigan primary to help deflect blame from Sanders over his loss, suggesting to Fox News that young voters had been “suppressed” because they were forced to wait in line, even though many of them waited until the day of the primary to register to vote.
Ocasio-Cortez’s chief complaint seems to be that Sanders’ team won’t disavow Rogan, whom she claims is hostile towards LGBT causes and is “transphobic.” She, along with other progressives, felt that the Sanders campaign’s attempt to welcome supporters into a “big tent” was misguided and that Democrats should narrow their focus, pressing progressive bona fides as a way of determining Sanders’ true supporters.
All was not well from Sanders’ side of the equation, though. Although Ocasio-Cortez was a powerful surrogate for the Vermont socialist, the Sanders’ campaign was reportedly concerned she was focused on raising her own profile and not Bernie’s.
“Shakir apparently communicated to Ocasio-Cortez his dissatisfaction over her remarks about alerting the presence of immigration authorities,” HuffPo reported. “While Sanders has sought to scrap and restructure the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in its current form, his campaign has been trying to avoid the impression that it was encouraging noncooperation with federal law as it exists, according to one source.”
They were also concerned that, at one Iowa rally, she never actually mentioned Sanders by name.
The Sanders campaign denied that they were ill-at-ease with Ocasio-Cortez, however, and that Shakir ever spoke to Ocasio-Cortez about changing her approach.