New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t want an apology, she wants respect.
On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez delivered a speech at the House of Representatives addressing a verbal attack she received by her Republican colleague, Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, two days prior. Yoho called Ocasio-Cortez a “fucking bitch” on the steps of Capitol Hill. He was reportedly furious that Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged the correlation between crime and societal neglect and said that “policing is not a solution to crime” during a virtual town hall in June. Yoho also called Ocasio-Cortez “disgusting” and “out of [her] freaking mind.”
Yoho gave a non-apology on the House floor Wednesday, saying that he was sorry for the “abrupt manner of the conversation” he had with Ocasio-Cortez.
“It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful,” Yoho said.
“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language,” he added. “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 the misunderstanding.”
Ocasio-Cortez was unimpressed by Yoho using his wife and daughter as a “shield” for his misogyny.
“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he had a wife and two daughters,” Ocasio-Cortez said during her speech. “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 toward me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.”
“Having a daughter does not make a man decent,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”
Ocasio-Cortez also said that Yoho’s remarks are not unique, but rather a pattern of violent language and bigoted behavior that goes all the way up to the commander in chief himself (who, Ocasio-Cortez reminded viewers, told her and the rest of The Squad to “go back home”).
“I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse 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.”
Other House Democrats also spoke up in defense of Ocasio-Cortez, like members of The Squad: Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
“Patriarchy is a tool of oppression that’s very much at home in the halls of this powerful institution,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said. “Not unlike the hostile working environments and harassment experienced by countless women across the nation who dare to speak truth to power. Today we rise for every woman that has dealt with these dynamics as a conflated part of their walking life.”
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said that this is a matter of respect and fundamental equality.
“Like Alexandria, I was raised by a dignified man who told me that I deserved equality because I was an equal human being to my brothers,” Omar said. “You don’t only respect women because they could be your mother, wife, sister. No, you respect women because they are equal human beings to you.”
Other speakers included Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Rep Brenda Lawrence, Rep. Al Green, Rep Mark Pocan, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Lori Trehan, and more. The theme was consistent: Harassment, belittlement, and abuse might be a facet of the everyday lives of women, including women in the halls of Congress, but it won’t hold them back.
Green said that if he had a daughter, he would want her to be bold, courageous, and speak truth to power like Ocasio-Cortez. It’s that very boldness that has made Ocasio-Cortez a figure of ire from the right, but she continues to take their impudence in stride.
“I want to thank Yoho for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “You can take photos and project images of being a family man and accost women without remorse and a sense of impunity. It happens every day in this country.”