Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis is facing backlash from some on the left after referring to one of the Democratic party’s progressive rising female stars, New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as “this girl…or whatever she is” over the weekend.
The congressman who is currently running as the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for Florida governor, made the comments while on the campaign trail in Orange Park, Florida, according to Huffpost who first obtained video of the event.
“You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is,” DeSantis said to a laughing audience. “It’s basically socialism wrapped in ignorance.”
DeSantis went on to critique 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez’s views as a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In an interview earlier this month with PBS, Ocasio-Cortez criticized Israel’s “occupation of Palestine” and said it was causing an “increasing crisis of humanitarian condition.” After the anchor of the show asked about her use of the word “occupation,” Ocasio-Cortez corrected her comments and said she is “not the expert on geopolitics on this issue.”
“She’s complaining about the occupation of Palestine, and so someone is like well what do you mean by that? And she’s like I don’t know I’m not an expert,” DeSantis said of Ocasio-Cortez’ interview. “You’re just repeating these canned, left-wing talking points, and you’re somehow the savior of the Democratic Party? Good Lord…she has no clue what she’s talking about.”
However, Ocasio-Cortez did not take to being called “this girl” or “whatever she is” lightly, she tweeted at Rep. DeSantis Monday afternoon and referenced the similarities between her heritage and that of a growing Florida voter group.
“Rep DeSantis, it seems you‘re confused as to “whatever I am,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “I am a Puerto Rican woman. It‘s strange you don’t know what that is, given that ~75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 mos since María. But I’m sure these new FL voters appreciate your comments!”
Others came to her defense including Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle.
DeSantis and his campaign said his comments have very little to do with identity and are more a critique of Ocasio-Cortez’ socialist views.
“My problem is not with your identity but with your unhinged socialist views,” DeSantis tweeted. “Socialism doesn't work, Israel isn't occupying “Palestine,” borders matter and the unemployment rate is down because of good policies, not because people are "working two jobs.”
He followed up that tweet saying Floridians have a very particular view on socialism.
“Trust me: socialism wrapped in ignorance is something Floridians from all walks of life reject,” DeSantis wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez first came into the national spotlight in June after she surprisingly unseated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in the New York Democratic primary for the state’s 14th congressional district. The member of the Democratic Socialists of America Party and former Bernie Sanders for President organizer has since hit the trail outside of New York and has campaigned with Senator Sanders for liberal candidates in Kansas.
President Trump is scheduled to campaign for 39-year-old DeSantis amongst other Florida Republicans in Tampa next week.
Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez made the rounds on Capitol Hill Tuesday, visiting with prospective future colleagues ahead of the general election.
Rep. Ro Khanna said he met Ocasio-Cortez for lunch at Tortilla Coast, where the two talked about the importance of relationship building, shared progressive values, and future partnership opportunities in Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez released a brief statement through Khanna’s office, praising him for being the only House Democrat to endorse her candidacy over Rep. Joe Crowley, the current House Democratic Caucus chairman.
Sources tell ABC News Ocasio-Cortez met with fellow progressives on Tuesday, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Raul Grijalva and Mark Pocan, who confirmed the two even discussed potential committee assignments.
“We tried to talk about what her goals are coming to Congress, some of the stuff that we're doing as a progressive caucus and you know really trying to be helpful to her,” Pocan, D-Wis., told ABC News. “As she comes to Congress we want to make sure she's able to accomplish her priorities coming in, and yeah we did start talking about committees, if we're in the majority or not, and all of those kinds of fun issues.”
While Ocasio-Cortez must still win a general election matchup on November 6, Pocan laughed off the suggestion that it may be premature to discuss committee assignments.
“She's gonna be a member, so I don't think we're too early on that,” Pocan said. “The good news is she's excited to come here and be a part of our caucus. She's got a lot of great energy and right now she's hitting the ground talking to a lot of people around the country.”
Ocasio-Cortez also met with Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, though she did not connect with any of the House Democratic caucus’s leadership. An aide says Pelosi spoke with Ocasio-Cortez on the phone the day after the June 26 primary.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said he had a “good conversation” with Ocasio-Cortez last Thursday when he attempted to rein in her outspoken rhetoric against Democratic incumbents.
“I think she has an understanding that everybody does not have the district she has, so that was a positive conversation,” Hoyer, D-Md., said.
Hoyer declined to characterize Ocasio-Cortez as a unifying force for Democrats, but acknowledged she “certainly energizes the base.”
“You know, the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly unified. That does not mean we're unanimous. Being unified and unanimous are not the same thing,” Hoyer explained. “I said, you know, Alexandria, it's very important for us to be unified as a party to win this election, because if we don't win the election, whatever view we have within our party is going to be, you know, nice to say but you're not going to have much effect in accomplishing that objective.”