Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered a heartfelt speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday condemning a culture of “accepting violence and violent language against women” after she was accosted by a fellow member of Congress who reportedly called her a “fucking bitch.”
On Tuesday, the Hill reported that Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho confronted Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of Capitol Hill, called her “disgusting,” and said the sexist slur after they parted.
Rep. Yoho denied using the slur, but the Hill’s top editor told BuzzFeed News they stood by its reporting.
On Wednesday, Yoho stood in the House of Representatives and said, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, or my country.” He apologized for the “misunderstanding” of his remarks.
“This is not an apology. He didn’t even say my name,” Ocasio-Cortez said in response on Wednesday.
When she rose Thursday in the House to speak on a point of personal privilege, the Democratic lawmaker from the Bronx said she couldn’t let Yoho’s remarks go without a response.
“I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that … and accept it as an apology,” she said.
“When you do that to any woman — what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters,” she said. “In using the language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to say that is not acceptable.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, Yoho again denied using the sexist slur.
“No one was accosted, bullied, or attacked. This was a brief policy discussion plain and simple and we have our differences,” he said. “We are both passionate members of Congress and equals. She has every right give her account of the conversation but she doesn’t have right to inflate, talk about my family, or give an account that did not happen for political gain. The fact still remains, I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t say.”
Ocasio-Cortez said Yoho’s refusal to offer a real apology is a reflection of larger issues in American society.
“This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of … impunity, of accepting violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that,” she said in her speech.
Ocasio-Cortez also criticized Yoho for using his wife and daughters “as shields and excuses” in his speech.
“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter, too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter,” she said. “My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House toward me on television … They did not raise me to accept abuse from men.”
Ocasio-Cortez said Yoho’s conduct shows the world “that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he thought Yoho’s apology was sufficient. “I think when someone apologizes they should be forgiven…yes, he made a mistake and yes he apologized for it and, yes, the majority leader accepted it,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the show of support by the Democratic women’s caucus for Ocasio-Cortez’s speech on the floor showed how important they feel the issue is.
“What makes you think you can be so … condescending in addition to being so disrespectful?” she said.