'He didn't even say my name': Ocasio-Cortez not satisfied with apology from Yoho, who denied insult

William Cummings, USA TODAY
·6 min read

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not satisfied with an apology delivered Wednesday by Rep. Ted Yoho, who said he was sorry for the "abrupt manner" of a reportedly angry conversation he had with her but denied calling her a vulgar term as reported by The Hill.

The Washington-based publication reported that Yoho confronted the freshman Democrat from New York on Tuesday in a Capitol staircase on Monday and told her she was "disgusting" for attributing a rise in crime to the unemployment caused by the coronavirus outbreak. After they parted, Yoho said "f------ b----," according to The Hill.

Speaking on the House floor Wednesday, the Florida Republican said he wished to "address the strife I injected into the already contentious Congress" following the heated exchange with his Democratic colleague.

"I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York," he said. "It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America but that does mean we should be disrespectful."

But Yoho denied directing the vulgarity reported by The Hill at Ocasio-Cortez.

"Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of my language. 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 their misunderstanding," Yoho said.

The day before, Yoho spokesman Brian Kaveney said Yoho "made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her polices to be: bulls---." Kaveney said it was "unfortunate that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is using this exchange to gain personal attention."

Responding to Yoho's denial, Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief for The Hill, said, "Our story was and remains 100 percent accurate." Cusack said it's "telling" that, despite his denials, Yoho never asked The Hill to issue a correction.

According to The Hill, Yoho's exchange with Ocasio-Cortez centered on remarks she made at a July 9 virtual town hall, which had been assailed by conservatives, many of whom have blamed a recent spike in crime on anti-police brutality protests. At the event, Ocasio-Cortez said economic hardships caused by the pandemic was the issue, not a lack of support for police.

The self-described democratic socialist called for funding for police to be directed toward another round of direct payments to taxpayers or to hire more social workers for schools.

"Crime is a symptom of a diseased society that neglects its most marginalized people, and we do not solve that problem with police," she said.

Addressing her comments on Wednesday, Yoho told her, "You are out of your freaking mind," according to The Hill. Ocasio-Cortez told him he was being "rude" and they parted ways.

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she never spoke to Yoho "before he decided to accost me on the steps of the nation's Capitol yesterday."

"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," she wrote. "But hey, “b*tches” get stuff done."

During his statement Wednesday, Yoho explained he is "passionate about those affected by poverty" because he came from a poor background.

"I know the face of poverty. And for a time, it was mine," he said. "That is why I know people in this country can still, with all its faults, rise up and succeed, and not be encouraged to break the law.

"I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who had called on Yoho to apologize, said the congressman "needed no apology for his passion about poverty and for the downtrodden."

"But he ought to remember and acknowledge that the person to whom he spoke so inappropriately was one of the strongest fighters in this Congress for those with the least, those who are downtrodden, those who are forgotten," Hoyer added.

Hoyer said he hoped the incident served as a lesson to "think before we speak so harshly to one another." He said the apology was "appropriate" and that he was sure "our colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appreciates that apology."

But in a series of tweets later Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez made it clear she did not think Yoho's apology was sufficient.

"This is not an apology," she said, accusing Yoho of "refusing responsibility."

"Republican responds to calling a colleague 'disgusting' & a “f—ing b*tch” w/ 'I cannot apologize for my passion' and blaming others," she said in one tweet. "I will not teach my nieces and young people watching that this is an apology."

"He didn't even say my name," she tweeted.

In other tweets, she said Yoho "lies" because "this was not a 'conversation,' it was verbal assault." And she said it was ironic that Yoho cited his history of poverty after "he accosted me" to "prove poverty doesn't result in traumatized behavior."

Yoho's reported remarks were rebuked by several House members.

The leaders of the Democratic Women's Caucus said in a joint letter that his conduct was "not befitting a member of Congress" and he had "joined a disturbing group of men disparaging women who challenge the status quo, attacking their character with sexist tropes rather the substance of their policies."

"Sadly, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is just the latest victim. For too long, women and people of color have been disparaged," the letter stated.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted that Yoho "should spend his time fighting for the thousands of Floridians who are about to lose unemployment benefits and face evictions, not denigrate and insult a champion of working families like @AOC.

"We need more AOC and less Yoho in Congress."

Even conservative Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., came to Ocasio-Cortez's defense.

"I can confirm that AOC gets along w many of her Republican colleagues on a range of things that don’t have anything to do w legislation or politics," he said. "She is not a bitch."

Contributing: Nicholas Wu

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ted Yoho sorry for 'abrupt' talk with AOC, denies he insulted her