Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Getty/Bill Pugliano)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: There is "no question" that President Donald Trump is a racist

"People know that if you’re coming after me, you’re opening yourself up," the Democrat says of her social media use


Shira Tarlo
January 7, 2019 4:34PM (UTC)

Newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the youngest woman ever voted into the U.S. Congress, said there is "no question" that President Donald Trump is a racist in an interview that aired Sunday night.

In an interview with "60 Minutes," the 29-year-old Democratic socialist told correspondent Anderson Cooper that Trump "certainly didn't invent racism, but he's certainly given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for these things."

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"Do you think President Trump is a racist?" Cooper asked.

"Yeah. Yeah – no question," Ocasio-Cortez replied. "When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy – when you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident where neo-Nazis murdered a woman versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it's night and day."

In a statement to CBS, the White House criticized the New York Democrat's comments, saying,  "Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's sheer ignorance on the matter can't cover the fact that President Trump supported and passed historic criminal justice reform . . . (and) has repeatedly condemned racism and bigotry in all forms."

Also in her interview, Ocasio-Cortez apologized to Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, over the barbs they traded on social media in December. At the same time, she doubled-down on her taunts of the Mueller probe, whose cloud continues to hang over the president's inner circle.

In a tweet last month, Ocasio-Cortez blasted Trump Jr. for insulting her, in turn sparking backlash from conservatives who saw her comments as a power-abusing threat to the president's eldest son.

"I have noticed that Junior here has a habit of posting nonsense about me whenever the Mueller investigation heats up," she tweeted. "Please, keep it coming Jr - it's definitely a 'very, very large brain' idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month. Have fun!"

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Ocasio-Cortez, whose tweet was fired in response to a meme Don Jr. had shared about her on his social media accounts that criticized her and suggested socialists eat dogs, appeared to reference President Donald Trump saying in September that China supposedly respects him for his "very, very large brain."

After several conservative pundits criticized her tweet for alleging threatening to subpoena a citizen for criticizing her,  the New York Democrat attempted to clarify her remarks by arguing that she did not have subpoena power as an individual freshman member of Congress.

"For the GOP crying that this is a 'threat' – I don't have power to subpoena anybody. Congress as a body, GOP included, has the power. No indiv. member can issue a subpoena unless they are a Chair (which, as a freshman, I can assure you I will not be). Also must be under purview."

On "60 Minutes," Cooper asked the freshman congresswoman about her tweet and the following backlash. "Some people have suggested that was a . . . you know, abuse of power on your part," he said.

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"Well, if he felt genuinely threatened by me, I apologize," Ocasio-Cortez responded, smiling. "But, I think that – frankly, it's legal advice that any person would give him."

“If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen,” she continued. "And people know that if you’re coming after me, you’re opening yourself up. People know that my style is sarcastic but honest and I take people at their word. And I will hold them accountable, as well.”

"Am I being serious and saying any person who makes fun of me should be facing consequences? Absolutely not. But I will take you down a peg if you're not being fair."

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Ocasio-Cortez also discussed her ambitious plan to combat the threat of climate change, known as the "Green New Deal." She said the plan, which aims to eliminate carbon emissions within 12 years, is "going to require a lot of rapid change that we don't even conceive as possible right now."

"What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.

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To pay for the deal, Ocasio-Cortez pointed to the progressive tax rate system in the 1960s and proposed the idea of tax of tax rates as high as 70 percent on the super-rich.

"You know, you look at our tax rates back in the '60s. And when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate . . . let's say, from zero to $75,000, may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But once you get to, like, the tippy tops, on your ten-millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent."

"That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that, as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more," she added.

Cooper replied that she was proposing a "radical agenda, compared to the way politics is done right now."

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"I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country," Ocasio-Cortez replied. "Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. That is radical."

Asked if she called herself a radical, Ocasio-Cortez said, "If that's what radical means, call me a radical."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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