Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has hit back at claims the details of her living arrangements aren’t what they seem.
The popular left-leaning Congresswoman has long fashioned herself as a “girl from the Bronx” who has first-hand experience with the impact of wage inequality and the working class.
But a number of US media outlets have sought to prove her upbringing wasn’t as gritty or relatable as she suggests.
‘WHERE IN THE WORLD DOES AOC LIVE?’
Over the past few weeks, a number of US media outlets including The New York Post and The Washington Free Beacon have published pieces scrutinising the Congresswoman over whether she actually lives in the Bronx, the neighbourhood she represents.
Why all the fuss? Because living in the Bronx — a comparably grittier, more working-class part of New York City — has been a crucial part of Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s political identity.
‘‘From an early age, Alexandria grew up with a deep understanding of income inequality,’’ her campaign website read. ‘‘The state of Bronx public schools in the late 80s and early 90s sent her parents on a search for a solution. She ended up attending public school 40 minutes north in Yorktown, and much of her life was defined by the 40 minute commute between school and her family in the Bronx.’’
In a campaign video that featured gritty street images, the Congresswoman said: “I was born in a place where your ZIP code determines your destiny.”
Likewise in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, she boasted that Donald Trump, who was born in Queens, wouldn’t know “how to handle a girl from the Bronx”.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s exact living arrangements have been under scrutiny for a long time. In the days following her unpredicted primary victory last June, conservative critics seized on reports that she spent much of her life growing up in Westchester County, a quiet suburban area 55 kilometres from the Bronx.
Her mother, Blanca, told The New York Times that her daughter was around five years old when they moved from the Bronx to a modest home in Yorktown, New York.
Property records show her father purchased this home a few years before for $US150,000. Her campaign said the move was made to allow her to attend better schools, and that she moved back to the Bronx after finishing her studies.
For what it’s worth, the Congresswoman hasn’t been afraid to address her critics.
Last July, John Cardillo tweeted a photo of the Yorkshire Heights house she grew up in, deeming it “a far cry from the Bronx hood upbringing she’s selling”.
She responded defending the home, saying her mum “scrubbed toilets so I could live here”.
“Your attempt to strip me of my family, my story, my home, and my identity is exemplary of how scared you are of the power of all four of those things,” she added.
1. I didn’t go to Brown or the Ivy League. I went to BU. Try Google.
2. It is nice. Growing up, it was a good town for working people. My mom scrubbed toilets so I could live here & I grew up seeing how the zip code one is born in determines much of their opportunity.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 1, 2018
3. Your attempt to strip me of my family, my story, my home, and my identity is exemplary of how scared you are of the power of all four of those things.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 1, 2018
Last week, the Post ran a story describing the Congresswoman as a “virtual ghost”, noting that she has no district office and no local phone number, unlike the state’s three other freshman members.
The Post said her spokesman refused to comment on where she lives, and neighbours told the outlet they had never seen her.
The outlet also spoke to workers at local grocery stores and restaurants who said they had never seen her, with one noting she only came in to be filmed by news crews.
Earlier this month, The Beacon noted she had moved into a luxury apartment building — suggesting this contradicted earlier concerns she raised about getting an apartment before her plum Congresswoman salary kicked in.
AOC SLAMS BACK
Ms Ocasio-Cortez has recently hit back at the reports, defending her choices. “I still live in my hood and literally instagrammed from my apartment tonight,” she said on Twitter.
She cited her personal safety as the reason for keeping details to herself, noting: “A man was just arrested last week with a stockpile of guns specifically trying to kill me & others, so yeah I’m not gonna disclose my personal address or tell people when I move. Sorry!”
I still live in my hood and literally instagrammed from my apartment tonight. A man was just arrested last week with a stockpile of guns specifically trying to kill me & others, so yeah I’m not gonna disclose my personal address or tell people when I move. Sorry!
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 25, 2019
This checks out. Earlier this month, Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Hasson was arrested on suspicion of plotting to attack a number of high-profile Democrats — including Ms Ocasio-Cortez.
Shortly after the arrest, she tweeted out against reporters attempting to pinpoint where she lives, saying “this isn’t a game”.
Journalists are sharing stories about where I live the same day it’s shared that myself + others were targeted by a mass shooter.
All this paired w/ amplifying unvetted conspiracy theories. It’s reckless, irresponsible & puts people directly in danger.
This isn’t a game. https://t.co/gcJWcKinxI
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 21, 2019