Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Hill that she has "never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect" directed at her before

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 21, 2020 01:34 PM
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From left: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ted Yoho
Anna Moneymaker/Getty; Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she was harshly confronted by a colleague this week and the altercation was overheard by a reporter, though the other lawmaker disputed her version of events.

Ocasio-Cortez, a 30-year-old Democratic representative for New York, said Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida disparaged her in a brief interaction while they passed each other at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

"I never spoke to Rep. Yoho before he decided to accost me on the steps of the nation’s Capitol yesterday," she tweeted on Tuesday. "Believe it or not, I usually get along fine w/ my GOP colleagues. We know how to check our legislative sparring at the committee door."

Ocasio-Cortez concluded her tweet by referencing a report from The Hill, in which a reporter said they overheard Yoho, 65, utter "f----- bitch" as he walked away.

"But hey, 'b*tches' get stuff done. 🤷🏽‍♀️," she wrote.

According to The Hill, Yoho called Ocasio-Cortez "disgusting," taking issue with her recent comments linking poverty to a spike in crime in New York City amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"You are out of your freaking mind," he reportedly told her, to which she replied that he was "rude."

Speaking with a journalist after the exchange, Ocasio-Cortez said "that kind of confrontation hasn't ever happened to me — ever."

"I've never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect levied at me," she added. (A rep for Ocasio-Cortez declined further comment.)

In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesman for Yoho denied the lawmaker called Ocasio-Cortez a "f------ bitch," claiming that reports had sensationalized the "conversation."

"Congressman Yoho had a brief member-to-member conversation on the steps of the Capitol. As you know, these conversations happen frequently when the House is in session," said the spokesman, Brian Kaveney. "He did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill or any name for that matter."

Kaveney said that the Yoho "made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes [Ocasio-Cortez's] polices to be: bulls---."

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"It sounds better for the Hill newspaper and gets more media attention to say he called her a name — which he did not do," Kaveney told PEOPLE.

"It is unfortunate that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is using this exchange to gain personal attention," he said.

The comments made by Ocasio-Cortez that reportedly angered Yoho related to her suggestion that unemployment and financial troubles caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis resulted in desperation and increased petty crimes.

"Republicans are all upset that I’m connecting the dots between poverty and crime. I know most of them haven’t experienced or seen these issues first hand, but I have," she tweeted on July 13. "This may be hard for them to admit, but poverty and crime are highly linked, both violent & nonviolent alike."

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Several fellow lawmakers spoke out in Ocasio-Cortez's defense on Tuesday, including Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, who tweeted: "Like @aoc, I believe poverty to be a root cause of crime. Wonder why Rep. Yoho hasn’t accosted me on the Capitol steps with the same sentiment? #shameful"

Added Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona: "I have suggested the same thing that @aoc has poverty & unemployment lead to crime. Weird neither Yoho or any other member has ever talked to me that way."