On Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) engaged in a masterful act of attempted manipulation. AOC gave a long and personal account of the Capitol riot from her point of view in a string of Instagram Live videos. During those videos, she identified herself as a “survivor of sexual assault” and accused Republicans who “tell us to move on” or tell “us to apologize” of engaging in the kinds of tactics sexual assaulters use to silence their victims.
AOC likely had traumatic moments during the Capitol riot and no one should mock her for that. However, in the context of backlash to her recent statements and accusations against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), it seems clear she is using her sexual assault story to shame her critics into silence.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who demanded AOC apologize for her accusations against Cruz, expressed sympathy with AOC regarding her sexual assault claim but insisted that her rhetoric will not sway him from his “beliefs about right and wrong.”
“Her comparison of my defense of colleagues to her circumstances were again inappropriate,” Roy insisted. Her remarks on Monday do “not change the fact that her allegation against Sen. Cruz was completely unacceptable… Nor does it change my position that she should apologize for and retract those remarks.”
AOC brought up her sexual assault allegation during her discussion about the Capitol riot but did not name a perpetrator or give any details about the alleged assault.
“The reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these folks who tell us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, that we should forget what’s happened, or even telling us to apologize, these are the same tactics of abusers,” AOC said. “And I’m a survivor of sexual assault and I haven’t told many people that in my life.”
“But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other,” she argued.
“We need accountability because the accountability is not about revenge, it’s not about getting back at people, it’s not about any of that. It’s about creating safety, and we are not safe with people who hold positions of power who are willing to endanger the lives of others if they think it will score them a political point,” AOC concluded.
“This is the moment where I thought everything was over.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has shared her experience of the Capitol Building insurrection, calling for “accountability” from lawmakers. pic.twitter.com/TJ5sxiV4et
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) February 2, 2021
Such a statement seems rich coming from AOC. During the Trump administration, AOC condemned ICE detention centers as “concentration camps.” In July 2019, a self-described antifa activist threw “incendiary devices” at an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Wash. The terrorist’s manifesto echoed AOC’s rhetoric, condemning an “evil [that] says concentration camps for folks deemed lesser are necessary.”
Yet AOC’s recent comments seem to be a bald attempt to shame her political opponents into silence and defend her claim that Sens. Cruz and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) should resign from the Senate after their attempts to block the certification of Electoral College votes.
On January 7, the day after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, AOC accused Cruz of fomenting the riot and demanded his resignation. “Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot. Both you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion,” she tweeted.
In this statement, AOC ironically quote-tweeted Cruz’s denunciation of the Capitol riot. “The attack on the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system. We must come together and put this anger and division behind us,” Cruz had tweeted.
Cruz eviscerated AOC’s accusation. “You are a liar. Leading a debate in the Senate on ensuring election integrity is doing our jobs, and it’s in no way responsible for the despicable terrorists who attacked the Capitol yesterday,” he tweeted. “I ain’t going anywhere,” he wrote in response to her demand that he resign.
Indeed, during the riot, Cruz condemned the attack, called for the prosecution of the rioters, and praised the Capitol Police.
Yet AOC did not just double down, she ramped up the accusation.
When Cruz offered to work with her on a congressional investigation into the Robinhood stock trading app, AOC responded, “I am happy to work with Republicans on this issue where there’s common ground, but you almost had me murdered 3 weeks ago so you can sit this one out. Happy to work w/ almost any other GOP that aren’t trying to get me killed. In the meantime if you want to help, you can resign.”
“You haven’t even apologized for the serious physical + mental harm you contributed to from Capitol Police & custodial workers to your own fellow members of Congress,” she added.
Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel pointed out that when House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) nearly died after getting shot at the congressional baseball game practice in 2017, he did not accuse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of inspiring the violence, even though the man who shot Scalise supported Sanders.
Only after AOC accused Cruz of trying to get her murdered did Republicans publicly call for her to apologize.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), demanding the speaker ask AOC to apologize.
“As a member of this body who disagreed with ‘objections’ to the electors and who has expressed publicly my concerns about the events leading to January 6th, it is completely unacceptable behavior for a Member of Congress to make this kind of scurrilous charge against another member in the House or Senate for simply engaging in speech and debate regarding electors as they interpreted the Constitution. I ask you to call on her to immediately apologize and retract her comments,” Roy wrote in the letter.
On Monday, 13 other House Republicans joined Roy’s demand for an apology.
In a statement to PJ Media on Tuesday, Roy expressed sympathy with AOC’s claimed victimization, but he stood by his previous remarks that her false accusations were inappropriate and unacceptable.
“I was saddened to learn about the trauma that my colleague, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, described in recent days regarding sexual assault. Nobody should go through that, and I hope that she has received justice and experiences peace in the matter,” Roy began.
“As to her claims about my position, I will not be swayed from my beliefs about right and wrong — regarding this or anything else,” the congressman added. “Her comparison of my defense of colleagues to her circumstances were again inappropriate, but I am not going to participate in discussing her personal experiences as a political matter.”
AOC’s sexual assault claim “does not change the fact that her allegation against Sen. Cruz was completely unacceptable for a Member of Congress to make against another member for engaging in free speech and debate about what our Constitution says about electors. Nor does it change my position that she should apologize for and retract those remarks.”
Roy concluded by declaring that “members of this body have a duty to work to mend the tattered fabric of our Republic, stop this heightened rhetoric, stop the social media sniping, and move forward to actually do the work the American people sent us here to do.”
Sexual assault is a serious charge, and AOC is correct that sexual abusers do use manipulative tactics to convince victims that the assault never happened. In some cases, abusers do demand apologies from their victims in a perverse and utterly disgusting act of psychological manipulation.
However, AOC’s comparison is a flat-out lie. Republicans are not blaming her for her own trauma — they are calling on her to apologize for a blatantly false accusation against Cruz, who did not try to get her murdered. When Republicans demand an apology for this despicable false accusation, they are not acting like sexual assault abusers, they are acting like responsible adults.
Furthermore, these Republicans are not saying that AOC — or anyone else — should just “forget what’s happened.” Instead, they are demanding the full prosecution of Capitol rioters, true accountability for the heinous attack on the Capitol. They do not object to accountability, but to AOC’s decision to weaponize “accountability” in demanding the resignation of her political opponents.
AOC’s decision to weaponize a sexual assault claim in support of this false “accountability” actually undermines the seriousness of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement. AOC did not speak out about her sexual assault in order to hold the alleged assaulter accountable. Nor did she do so in order to sympathize with other victims of sexual assault. Instead, she came forward with an undefined victimhood claim when it was politically convenient for her to do so. She used this victimhood claim to boost her partisan attacks.
AOC may well be a victim of sexual assault, and if so, she deserves sympathy. But her decision to wield an undefined victimhood claim in this way is despicable.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.