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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Describes Living in Constant Fear of Violence, Shares Thoughts on Nickname ‘AOC’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is opening up about the threats and violent rhetoric she’s faced since coming to Congress, telling journalist Chris Wallace she has felt “in danger” for the entirety of her political career.

“Absolutely, I felt that my life has been in danger. Since the moment that I won my primary election in 2018,” the 33-year-old Democrat told Wallace in an interview for Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? on HBO and CNN. “And it became especially intensified when I was first brought into Congress in 2019.”

Asked how that fear impacts her daily life, Ocasio-Cortez told Wallace: “It means when I wake up in the morning, I hesitate to walk my dog. It means when I come home, I have to ask my fiancé to come out to where my car is to walk me to just from my car to my front door.”

She continued: “It means that there’s just … a general disposition where you kind of feel like there’s almost a static electricity around you. And you’re just always just looking around, your head is just on a swivel, going to a restaurant walking down the street.”

The fear, she added, has shaped the decisions she makes as a lawmaker.

“I actually believe that it very much shaped my political decisions because I started to feel even in 2019 that it was possible that I may not see the end of the year. I really felt that way,” she said. “And so it impacted how I navigated politically because I said I don’t know if I have time. So I need to be as robust and urgent as possible. To say what I need to say, because I don’t want to take the time I have for granted.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as, from left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as, from left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass

Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley.
J Scott Applewhite/AP/Shutterstock

The New York lawmaker has previously opened up about the terror that gripped her during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, revealing in a later interview with CNN that she worried about what the rioters would do to her if they made it to her office.

In an interview with journalist Dana Bash, Ocasio-Cortez said: “I didn’t think that I was just going to be killed,” adding, “I thought other things were going to happen to me as well.”

Asked if she feared she was going to be sexually assaulted, the New York lawmaker told Bash, “Yeah, yeah. I thought I was.”

Ocasio-Cortez has recounted the events of that day before, telling social media followers she heard banging on her office door Jan. 6, and describing the noise as, “like someone was trying to break the door down.”

“You have all of those thoughts where, at the end of your life, and all of these thoughts come rushing to you. And that’s what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday,” Ocasio-Cortez shared on Instagram Live a week after the insurrection. “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.”

In the wake of the Capitol riots, the lawmaker took to social media to open up about another trauma in her life: a past sexual assault.

Speaking on an Instagram Live, Ocasio Cortez said she was “getting emotional” about the riots, in part, because, “I’m a survivor of sexual assault, and I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”

Elsewhere in the interview with Wallace, Ocasio-Cortez spoke about her nickname, “AOC,” which was popularized after she won her first election.

“I see it as a term of endearment,” the lawmaker said. “I think when everyday people kind of shout that out on the street or whatever in my community and people say that. I am flattered by it, because it’s people just trying to you know, they’re, they’re not calling me ‘congresswoman’ and I like that. I like that people feel comfortable enough to almost speak to me as a friend.”

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Ocasio-Cortez has faced plenty of hostility since coming to Congress, too — including from colleagues on the other side of the political aisle.

In July 2020, she was harshly confronted by a colleague in an altercation with a fellow congressman, Republican Ted Yoho. The incident was overheard by a reporter, though Yoho has disputed that version of events.

In another instance, Washington Post staffers said they saw controversial Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene loudly and “aggressively” confront Ocasio-Cortez as she left the House chamber.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.