Note: This report contains derogatory and profane terms.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decried a “pattern” of sexism in politics and American culture on Thursday, rising on the House floor to speak directly to an incident on the steps of the Capitol this week that shocked some in Washington.
Maybe it shouldn’t have, she said. “This is not new,” the freshman lawmaker said.
The Democrat began her speech by recounting details of her run-in with Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida. He approached her out of the blue, put his finger in her face, and called her “disgusting,” “crazy” and “dangerous,” she said.
Then she quoted the vulgar slur that Yoho allegedly muttered as he walked away, overheard by a reporter from The Hill. “In front of reporters, Rep. Yoho called me, and I quote, a ‘f------ b----,’” Ocasio-Cortez said, using the full uncensored language.
She wasn’t “deeply hurt or offended” by the words themselves, she stressed, since she has heard them all before, whether riding the subway in her home city of New York or working as a bartender.
“I have thrown men out of bars that have used language like Mr. Yoho’s,” she said.
Instead, she pointed to a pattern of disrespect in Congress and the country at large. “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural,” she said.
She called out Rep. Roger Williams, a Texas Republican, for standing next to Yoho as the latter berated her on the Capitol steps. Other men in politics have demeaned her even more publicly, she said, citing President Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the GOP governor of Florida.
“It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women,” she said.
“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,” Yoho said Wednesday.
He also noted that he has a wife and is the father of daughters and therefore has respect for women.
Ocasio-Cortez ripped into that logic on Thursday. “Having a daughter does not make a man decent,” she said, and politicians shouldn’t use their female family members as “shields” for poor behavior.
“I am someone’s daughter, too,” she added.
After speaking, Ocasio-Cortez yielded her time to a parade of Democratic colleagues, each of whom outlined lingering challenges for women on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., gave a brief history of the word “b----” and said she has been subject to verbal abuse from colleagues, including one lawmaker who told her to learn how to read.
“We are not going away,” Jayapal said. “There is going to be more power in the hands of women across this country.”
Yoho’s alleged comments came during a week in which House Republican men during a closed-door conference meeting reportedly took turns questioning the leadership of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican and one of only 13 GOP women in the chamber.