Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed this week that Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) called her several names during a heated exchange, including a “f***ing b***h,” which Yoho’s office strongly denied. Yoho later offered an apology on the floor of the House of Representatives, which Ocasio-Cortez later rejected and made false claims about.
On Monday, the two had an interaction on the Capitol steps. Ocasio-Cortez claimed in an NBC News interview that she was “just kind of minding my own business” when Yoho stopped, stuck his finger in her face, called her “disgusting” and “crazy,” and said that she was “out of my freaking mind.”
Olivia Beavers, a reporter with The Hill, claimed that her colleague heard Yoho say “f***ing b***h” as he parted ways with Ocasio-Cortez at the start of the week. Beavers’ tweet did not include a statement from her colleague’s report that said Yoho’s alleged remark was “a parting thought to no one in particular.” In other words, the remark that he was alleged to have made was not clearly direct at Ocasio-Cortez.
Yoho: "You are out of your freaking mind."
AOC told Yoho he was being "rude."
Then parting ways, Yoho said: "F*cking bitch."
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) July 21, 2020
Yoho spokesperson Brian Kaveney said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that Ocasio-Cortez’s claims and the claim made in The Hill report were false.
“He did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill or any name for that matter,” Kaveney said. “It sounds better for the Hill newspaper and gets more media attention to say he called her a name – which he did not do.”
“It is unfortunate that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is using this exchange to gain personal attention,” Kaveney added. “Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her polices to be: bullshit.”
It is worth noting that earlier this week, a video made the rounds on social media that had people claiming that Al Jazeera English White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett had called White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany a “lying b***h.”
The video of the incident, which to some appeared to show that Halkett had used those words, circulated until Halkett herself clarified what she really said, which was, “Okay, you don’t want to engage.” After viewing the video again with Halkett’s remarks in mind, as well as the official transcript that corroborates her claim, it is clear that Halkett did not call McEnany a “lying b***h.”
Yoho later offered an apology on the floor of the House of Representatives, during which he stated:
Mr. Speaker, I stand before you this morning to address the strife I injected into the already contentious Congress. I have worked with many members in this chamber over the past four terms, members on both sides of the aisle, and each of you know that I’m a man of my word. So, let me take a moment to address this body. I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York. It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful.
Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language. The offensive name calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding. As my colleagues know, I’m passionate about those affected by poverty. My wife Carolyn and I started out together at the age of 19 with nothing. We did odd jobs and we were on food stamps. I know the face of poverty, and for a time it was mine. That is why I know people in this country can still, with all its faults, rise up and succeed and not be encouraged to break the law. I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of the country in mind and the people we serve.
I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my god, my family, and my country. I yield back.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to Yoho’s apology by claiming that Yoho did not apologize and that his remarks were “not directed to” her, despite the fact that Yoho explicitly stated: “I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York.”
– Does not apologize or name any action he did
– Does not accept responsibility
– Lies (this was not a “conversation,” it was verbal assault)
– Distracts by making it abt poverty (ironically)
– Says everyone else is wrong and the incident never happened.
This is not an apology.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 22, 2020
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) immediately responded to Yoho’s apology by stating on the House floor: “I appreciate the words of the gentlemen from Texas, Mr. Yoho – Florida, excuse me. They were appropriate because the language that we use matters. The way we treat one another matters. … The apology was appropriate. … The apology was appropriate. I know that our colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appreciates that apology.”
Ocasio-Cortez later gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in which she repeated the claims that Yoho denied, and claimed that she was called a “f***ing b***h,” despite The Hill’s report stating that the alleged remark was “a parting thought to no one in particular.”
The New York Times reported on Ocasio-Cortez’s speech, saying that it was “norm-shattering,” and that she is known for “using her detractors to amplify her own political brand.”
The Times also noted that Ocasio-Cortez “embraced the insult,” tweeting “But hey, ‘b*tches’ get stuff done.” Ocasio-Cortez also posted a video to her Instagram account, which another Twitter user tweeted out and Ocasio-Cortez retweeted, that featured a song that states: “I’m a b***h, I’m a boss. I’m a b***h and a boss, Imma shine like gloss.”
Rep @AOC: "I do not need Rep. Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly he does not want to. Clearly when given the opportunity he will not & I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women & using abusive language towards women." pic.twitter.com/XKymFh3Oyf
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 23, 2020
About two days ago, I was walking up the steps of the Capitol when Representative Yoho suddenly turned a corner, and he was accompanied by Representative Roger Williams, and accosted me on the steps right here in front of our nation’s Capitol. I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face, he called me disgusting, he called me crazy, he called me out of my mind, and he called me dangerous. Then he took a few more steps, and after I had recognized his comments as rude, he walked away and said I’m rude, you’re calling me rude. I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them and to make sure that they are able to keep a roof over their head, that they’re able to feed their families, and that they’re able to carry their lives with dignity.
I walked back out and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol, and in front of reporters Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, “a f***ing b****.” These were the words that Representative Yoho levied against a congresswoman. The congresswoman that not only represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, but every congresswoman and every woman in this country. Because all of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape, at some point in our lives. I want to be clear that Representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me, because I have worked a working class job. I have waited tables in restaurants. I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City, and this kind of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used language like Mr. Yoho’s, and I have encountered this type of harassment riding the subway in New York City.
This is not new, and that is the problem. Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams, and that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that. Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican Party and elected officials in the Republican Party, not just here, but the President of the United States last year told me to go home to another country, with the implication that I don’t even belong in America. The governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I even was sworn in, called me a whatever that is. Dehumanizing language is not new, and what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others.
So while I was not deeply hurt or offended by little comments that are made, when I was reflecting on this, I honestly thought that I was just going to pack it up and go home. It’s just another day, right? But then yesterday, Representative Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behavior, and that I could not let go. I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that, to see that excuse and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate, and accept it as an apology, and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand, which is why I am rising today to raise this point of personal privilege.
I do not need Representative Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly he does not want to. Clearly when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women, but what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior. Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television, and I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.
Now, what I am here to say is that this harm that Mr. Yoho levied, tried to levy against me, was not just an incident directed at me, but when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. In using that language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable. I do not care what your views are. It does not matter how much I disagree or how much it incenses me or how much I feel that people are dehumanizing others. I will not do that myself. I will not allow people to change and create hatred in our hearts.
And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote; he apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.
Lastly, what I want to express to Mr. Yoho is gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity. It happens every day in this country. It happened here on the steps of our nation’s Capitol. It happens when individuals who hold the highest office in this land admit, admit to hurting women and using this language against all of us. Once again, I thank my colleagues for joining us today. I will reserve the hour of my time and I will yield to my colleague, Representative Jayapal of Washington. Thank you.