White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany condemned the “defund the police” movement during a press conference on Monday. In doing so, she named prominent Democratic congresswoman who want to defund the police. Among them, she named Congresswoman and “Biden advisor” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). This prompted outrage from AOC, who accused McEnany of betraying a racist impulse.
McEnany “wouldn’t be the first person to mistake a women of color for having a lower position or title than she does, but Kayleigh – in case you haven’t picked up a newspaper in two years, I’m a Congresswoman,” AOC tweeted.
The congresswoman went on to lecture the press secretary about the horrific racist history beyond her supposed sin.
“The [press secretary’s] comment is steeped in a long, hurtful, & horrendous history of stripping women of color of titles and diminishing them to ‘the help.’ Perhaps she isn’t aware that what she did is mired in racist history. If that is the case, I look forward to her apology tomorrow,” AOC added.
The @PressSec comment is steeped in a long, hurtful, & horrendous history of stripping women of color of titles and diminishing them to “the help.”
Perhaps she isn’t aware that what she did is mired in racist history. If that is the case, I look forward to her apology tomorrow.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 8, 2020
Yet, as with so many accusations of racism coming from AOC and other leftist Democrats, this accusation was entirely false.
All McEnany needed to do to shut it down was refer AOC to the transcript. “Read the transcript, Congresswoman AOC,” the press secretary tweeted.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) June 8, 2020
In the transcript, plain as day, McEnany said, “Yeah, it’s a really good question. The President is appalled by the Defund the Police movement. The fact that you have sitting congresswomen wanting to defund the police — notably Rashida Tlaib; notably Biden advisor AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; former Clinton and Eric Holder spokesperson Brian Fallon wanting to defund our police across this country — it is extraordinary.”
While McEnany’s decision to name Fallon — who is neither a member of Congress nor a woman — next may have been unfortunate, but she clearly used “notably” to denote that she was mentioning another congresswoman, in this case, AOC.
The video of the press conference also makes her intention clear.
JUST IN: “The president is appalled by the 'Defund the Police' movement,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says, criticizing Democratic lawmakers.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 8, 2020
AOC’s mistaken impression appears to have come from Politico‘s Jake Sherman, who noted that McEnany referred to AOC as “Biden adviser Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.” AOC’s tweets included Sherman’s tweet here.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) June 8, 2020
Yet Sherman was not suggesting that McEnany forgot that AOC was a congresswoman. He was merely noting McEnany’s framing — calling AOC a “Biden advisor” is cunning because it ties her to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden even though Biden’s campaign has opposed the defund the police movement. AOC is indeed a Biden advisor of a sort: she is the co-chair of the Climate Change Unity Task Force effort to bring together supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) and the “moderate” Biden camp.
McEnany’s decision to brand AOC a “Biden advisor” was notable — but it was not a sign of racism, not even close. Naturally, however, AOC immediately became outraged and ran with the false accusation of racism — before taking the time to read the transcript or listen to McEnany’s statement.
McEnany does not need to apologize for her framing. Perhaps AOC should apologize for falsely branding the White House press secretary a racist. That would, of course, require a modicum of decency to balance her rush to demonize anyone who dissents from her radical agenda. In other words, I wouldn’t count on it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.