Right-wing media escalate attacks on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, suggesting she is lying or exaggerating being in danger at the Capitol

After attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as manipulative, attention-seeking, and self-centered for sharing details about her experience during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, right-wing media figures are now accusing her of lying about her location in yet another attempt to discredit her story. 

On the February 1 livestream, Ocasio-Cortez opened up about the trauma she felt during the siege on the Capitol and urged that those who provoked the attack need to be held accountable, saying, “They’re trying to tell us that it wasn't a big deal. They’re trying to tell us to move on without any accountability, without any truth-telling.” Ocasio-Cortez also spoke about her experience as a sexual assault survivor and, as BuzzFeed News reported, “described how the trauma of one experience can be compounded by another. She also compared the tactics of those who maintained Trump’s lies about the election to those of abusers.”  

The backlash from right-wing media figures was swift. As the attacks mounted, some began to argue that Ocasio-Cortez -- who has been a target of right-wing obsession and vitriol since she first came to Congress -- was lying or being overly dramatic about being fearful for her safety on January 6 due to the location of her office building. Ocasio-Cortez pushed back on these claims as the “latest manipulative take on the right.”

This narrative was heightened when Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) cast doubt on Ocasio-Cortez’s retelling, saying that she is “two doors down” from her office and “no insurrectionists stormed our hallway.” Earlier, Mace had told reporters her own story of feeling fear and barricading herself in her office the day of the attack.

The narrative snowballed, and hashtags “#AOClied” and “#AlexandriaOcasioSmollett” -- a reference to actor Jussie Smollett, who faked a hate crime against himself in 2019 -- started trending, fueled by right-wing media personalities like Candace Owens, Sebastian Gorka, and Steven Crowder. Meanwhile, Fox News ran numerous segments claiming Ocasio-Cortez is “facing questions” and “backlash” over her “riot claims.” 

The backlash to Ocasio-Cortez’s livestream reveals a deeper pattern of cynical blaming, discrediting, and accusing victims of “weaponizing” their trauma when they speak out. As Danielle Campoamor wrote for NBC News, Ocasio-Cortez’s “Capitol Instagram video backlash reveals myth of the perfect assault victim” and “trying to pretend there is one ‘right way’ to deal with the psychological impact of assault is just another way to delegitimize the experiences of trauma survivors we don’t like.”

Here are some examples of right-wing media doubting that Ocasio-Cortez was in actual danger:

  • YouTuber Steve Turley posted a monetized video with the title: “BOMBSHELL! AOC Was NOT in the CAPITOL BUILDING During Riots Like She CLAIMED!!!”
  • Turning Point Action’s Ryan Fournier tweeted, “AOC lied about being in the Capitol building during her ‘near death’ experience.’”
  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson cast doubt on Ocasio-Cortez’s account, mocking her at length for her “death-defying bravery” and airing a graphic with a map of the Capitol to suggest Ocasio-Cortez was farther from the siege and thus not in danger.
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Citation From the February 4, 2021, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Red State published an article titled: “AOC Wasn’t Even in the Capitol Building During Her ‘Near Death’ Experience.” 
  • Conservative media personality Candace Owens accused Ocasio-Cortez of “faking her own attempted murder.”
  • The New York Post published an article with the headline: “AOC blasted for exaggerating her ‘trauma’ from Capitol riot experience.”
  • One America News’ Jack Posobiec tweeted a photo of the Capitol map to claim that Ocasio-Cortez is lying about what happened.
  • Fox News published an article with the headline: “AOC faces backlash as critics point out she wasn't in Capitol building during riot.”
  • Conservative radio host Sebastian Gorka tweeted that Ocasio-Cortez “lied about where she was on January 6th” and “lied about being in danger.”
  • Fox’s The Faulkner Focus hosted contributor Jason Chaffetz for a segment discussing Ocasio-Cortez, during which Chaffetz claimed that “the embellishment that Ocasio-Cortez gave” her story “just took it to a whole other level. You just can’t believe the things that come out of her mouth.” Anchor Harris Faulkner noted that “her state really, really needs to work on the nursing home scandal, the COVID vaccine distribution” and suggested that Ocasio-Cortez should focus on that.
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Citation From the February 4, 2021, edition of Fox News' The Faulkner Focus

  • On America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Karl Rove accused Ocasio-Cortez of “manipulating” people’s lack of understanding about the Capitol layout. 
  • YouTuber Steven Crowder posted a livestream video titled “#AOCLied and I’ll Prove it.” 
  • On Fox’s Outnumbered, co-host Emily Compagno asked guest co-host Miranda Devine if Ocasio-Cortez is “doing this for political gain. Is there a purpose this serves?” In response, Devine suggested Ocasio-Cortez is “psychologically tormented in some way” and that the livestream could be “a narcissistic bid for attention.” She added that Ocasio-Cortez is “behaving childishly and hysterically and neurotically.”
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Citation From the February 4, 2021, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

  • On The Ingraham Angle, Fox contributor Raymond Arroyo called Ocasio-Cortez “best lead actor in a political drama.” Arroyo complained that “the drama never ends over this day,” said “the truth is Ocasio-Cortez was in no danger at all” on January 6, and claimed, “None of this makes sense.”
  • On the same show, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich called Ocasio-Cortez a “pure demagogue,” saying, “I have no idea what’s true, I have no idea what she thinks is true, and I have no idea what she's saying just for effect.” Gingrich complained that “somebody on the left can say anything that’s nutty” and “for a long stretch, the media still treats them as true.”