BY: MARIAM KHAN and JOHN PARKINSON
(WASHINGTON) — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is calling for GOP Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida to be sanctioned by Congress after he reportedly used profane language toward his Democratic colleague, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, following an altercation on the Capitol steps on Monday.
Yoho’s comments, overheard by a veteran Hill reporter for The Hill, came after the GOP congressman reportedly said that Ocasio-Cortez was “disgusting” for her stance on policing and crime.
“You are out of your freaking mind,” Yoho reportedly told Ocasio-Cortez on the House steps for suggesting during a town hall last month that poverty and unemployment are leading to a spike in crime in New York City amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to the charge by telling Yoho he was being “rude.”
After parting ways, Yoho was overheard by the reporter allegedly referring to Ocasio-Cortez as a “f—— bitch.”
Yoho has not publicly responded, but his spokesman, Brian Kaveney, denied that the retiring congressman called Ocasio-Cortez the profane term and told ABC News that “there is no pre-existing ‘beef’ between the two members.”
“He did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill or any name for that matter. It sounds better for the Hill newspaper and gets more media attention to say he called her a name – which he did not do. It is unfortunate that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is using this exchange to gain personal attention,” Kaveney contended. “Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her polices to be: bullsh–.”
The inflammatory exchange followed comments Ocasio-Cortez made earlier last month during a virtual town hall.
“Crime is a problem of a diseased society, which neglects its marginalized people,” Ocasio-Cortez said in June. “Policing is not the solution to crime.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman Democrat who has one of the highest profiles on Capitol Hill, has repeatedly called for cutting police budgets and shifting those funds into education, mental health and other social services.
Though she seemingly did not hear the comment directly, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the incident on Tuesday and said she had never spoken to Yoho before Monday.
I never spoke to Rep. 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.
But hey, “b*tches” get stuff done. 🤷🏽♀️ https://t.co/WlG3xccwR7
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 21, 2020
Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal firebrand who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, has often dealt with attacks from the far right. But she told The Hill in an interview that this type of confrontation was a first.
“That kind of confrontation hasn’t ever happened to me — ever,” she said. “I’ve never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect levied at me.”
Although he was spotted alongside Yoho, Texas Republican Roger Williams denied hearing the exchange. Ocasio-Cortez asserted he is not being truthful.
The purported exchange is highly unusual at the U.S. Capitol, even as bitter partisanship is exhibited by a divided Congress. It’s been nearly 100 years since a Member of Congress was censured for using “unparlimentary language.”
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was reprimanded by the House in 2009 after he notoriously interrupted President Barack Obama’s remarks before a Joint Session of Congress, when he shouted from the House floor, “You lie!” during the president’s prime time address at the height of the debate on the Affordable Care Act. That outburst earned Wilson an official reprimand and went down in history as a “breach of decorum” that “degraded the proceedings.”
Hoyer, the second-ranked House Democrat, told reporters Tuesday during a press call that Yoho should be sanctioned for his “despicable” conduct toward another member.
“Bottom line, I think it was despicable conduct that needs to be sanctioned,” Hoyer, D-Md., said.
“Mr. Yoho owes not only the congresswoman an apology but also an apology on the floor of the House of Representatives. We need to pursue this kind of conduct and make it very clear it is unacceptable,” he said.
“It was the act of a bully, the act of a person who is the antithesis of John Lewis, who we honor every day this week,” Hoyer added.
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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