Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has condemned corporate media for peddling right-wing narratives surrounding the horrific killing of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man who a white man choked to death on a New York City subway on Monday.
As videos and photos of the incident show, the man, who has been identified as a 24-year-old former Marine, placed Neely in a chokehold after Neely boarded the train. An eyewitness and journalist, Juan Alberto Vazquez, who posted the video of Neely’s death on social media, said that Neely was yelling, “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” before the ex-Marine grabbed and choked him, according to The New York Times.
The video shows the ex-marine choking Neely for two minutes until Neely stops moving. Vazquez says that the chokehold lasted 15 minutes.
The veteran, whose name has not been released, was taken into custody by police and released without charges. Neely was declared dead at a local hospital, where medical examiners determined that he died due to compression of the neck.
Many people reacted to Neely’s death with horror, saying that the killing is emblematic of the racism and inhumanity that mainstream political figures have been fostering against people experiencing homelessness and hunger. Protesters took to subway platforms and New York City streets to condemn his killing, which has now been ruled a homicide.
At the same time, however, right-wing figures rushed to defend the marine, placing Neely on trial in the court of public opinion and making abhorrent arguments that Neely deserved to die. Media outlets like the The New York Times and The New York Post essentially contributed to these arguments; The Post, a right-wing outlet, framed the brutal public killing as an act of heroism by the ex-Marine, describing Neely as an “unhinged man” and a “vagrant.”
The Times described the incident with the exculpatory passive voice typically reserved for police killings, writing on Twitter: “A 30-year-old man died on the subway on Monday after he was placed in a chokehold.” The outlet claimed that Neely was acting in a “hostile and erratic manner” and that the veteran was simply moving to “restrain him.”
Ocasio-Cortez denounced The Times’s post on Twitter. “Jordan Neely was murdered. But because Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected with passive headlines and no charges,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “It’s disgusting.”
Such passive and dehumanizing framing is common among large media outlets and political elites, she added.
“It is appalling how so many take advantage of headlines re: crime for an obsolete ‘tough on crime’ political, media, and budgetary gain, but when a public murder happens that reinforces existing power structures, those same forces rush to exonerate and look the other way. We shouldn’t,” she wrote.
Later, the lawmaker condemned a statement from New York City Mayor and right-wing Democrat Eric Adams, who appeared to blame Neely for his own death.
“Any loss of life is tragic,” Adams said. “However, we do know that there were serious mental health issues in play here, which is why our administration has made record investments in providing care to those who need it and getting people of the streets and the subways, and out of dangerous situations. And I need all elected officials and advocacy groups to join us in prioritizing getting people the care they need and not just allowing them to languish.”
Ocasio-Cortez said that the statement was a “new low” for Adams.
“This honestly feels like a new low: not being able to clearly condemn a public murder because the victim was of a social status some would deem ‘too low’ to care about,” she wrote. “The last sentence is especially rich from an admin trying to cut the very services that could have helped him.”
Adams later doubled down, claiming that Ocasio-Cortez’s statement was “[ir]responsible at a time when we’re still investigating the situation,” even though videos clearly show the ex-Marine choking Neely to death.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, also a right-wing Democrat, chimed in with a statement that even further placed the blame on Neely, saying, “People who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the throes of mental health episodes …. There’s consequences for behavior.”
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