On Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) recounted the events of January 6, when Donald Trump supporters broke into the Capitol building demanding that Congress overturn the votes of the presidential election and declare Trump president.
Ocasio-Cortez, in a video on Instagram Live, said she felt as though she was going to die that day. She shared her trauma as a survivor of sexual assault, which she said makes it harder for her to feel like people will believe her when she speaks out.
Shortly after, as part of the ongoing attempts to attack Ocasio-Cortez and, more recently, discount or rewrite the events of the attempted coup, right-wing media and politicians began questioning her account, saying that she was exaggerating or lying. One such right-winger, freshman Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, piled onto those attacks on Twitter.
Mace said that her office is two doors down from Ocasio-Cortez’s and that Trump militants never stormed that hallway, implying that Ocasio-Cortez’s account of the day was questionable.
On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez responded to Mace, saying that Mace’s skepticism was “a deeply cynical & disgusting attack” and pointing out that Mace herself had taken actions similar to Ocasio-Cortez’s to protect herself that day.
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Mace had told South Carolina newspaper The State that she “barricaded herself inside her D.C. office during the attack” and slept in her office that night out of fear.
“Now you’re contradicting your own account to attack me for Fox News clicks,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “It’s honestly pretty sad to see you turn around like this and throw other people under the bus. Thought you’d be better.” Though Mace was close with Trump during her campaign, she decided to vote to uphold the results of the election on January 6 — mostly because his brand of politics had ended up losing the Republican Party big in Congress, The State wrote.
This is a deeply cynical & disgusting attack, @NancyMace.
As the Capitol complex was stormed and people were being killed, none of us knew in the moment what areas were compromised.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 4, 2021
On January 6, Mace had tweeted that the attack on the Capitol was “wrong” and that she was “heartbroken” witnessing the Trump mob attacking Capitol Police. Mace’s communications director, Natalie Johnson, said a few days after the attempted coup that she was traumatized by the event and only felt more anxiety as the days went on.
Mace’s comments, Ocasio-Cortez says, also invalidate the experience of everyone who feared for their lives during the attack. “How many food workers or custodial workers or Capitol Police officers, who ran for their lives in Longworth or feared for their families in the weeks after the attacks, now think their terror is less valid because of her statements?” she asked. “Mace’s attacks are attacks on them, too.”
During the Instagram Live on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez said that it was not just her trauma but the collective trauma that matters from that day, and has taken steps in the past month to advocate for the mental and physical health of all of the Capitol custodial staff and people whose needs may otherwise go unnoticed.
This week, she has emphasized that survivors of especially traumatic events are especially susceptible to harm when someone close to them expresses disbelief over other survivors’ accounts of trauma.
“I really wrestled with telling my story, and had decided about a week ago that it probably wasn’t worth it,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Wednesday. “Then I had dinner with [New York State] Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. I told her everything because I knew she was a survivor. She helped me see the importance of sharing my story of the Capitol and trauma.” When Republicans say that Ocasio-Cortez is exaggerating, then, “survivors are watching,” she said.
It is also very damning and revealing that the GOP is now digging both heels in a discrediting campaign.
It’s because they know they are implicated, so they’re pivoting to (again) the classic abuse playbook of “it’s not as bad as they say.”
It was that bad. It’s actually worse.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 3, 2021
Since the attempted coup, court documents have shown that many of the Trump militants who showed up at the Capitol that day had threatened to kill Democrats, including one who threatened to “assassinate” Ocasio-Cortez. Several people died in connection to the attempted coup, including two Capitol Police officers who committed suicide in the days after responding to the violent mob.