Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Gaslighting of America

By Ben Johnson Published on March 11, 2019

She did it again.

This time, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez falsely accused an evangelical Christian leader of inciting genocide.

AOC tweeted out a video of Jerry Falwell Jr. allegedly encouraging conservatives to murder Muslims in cold blood. “I always thought that if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end these Muslims before they [unintelligible],” she quoted him.

“This was just this weekend at CPAC, the conference attended by the President,” she wrote. And she’s been retweeted 15,000 times.

There’s just one thing wrong with her description: Everything.

The video came from a Liberty University event in 2015. Falwell is discussing the San Bernardino shootings by Muslim jihadists. And his “unintelligible” remarks are easy enough to make out. Falwell said if their co-workers had been armed, they could have stopped “these Muslims before they walked in and killed them.” (You can see a fuller version of the video here.)

So far, her only correction has been to admit the video “is a little older” than she thought.

Her libel stands.

AOC’s Disinformation Campaign

So goes the latest in a long line of lies, prevarications, and smokescreens the Brooklyn socialist has put over on the American people.

It’s not merely that she’s wrong, factually and morally. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a one-woman deception campaign who rivals the boldest Soviet dezinformatsiya program. Yet she has been successful enough that anyone in politics has to understand her tactics to participate in today’s public square.

The problem is not just that she refuses to acknowledge any error. It’s that she denies the very words that came out of her mouth hours, even minutes earlier.

The political psyops began as soon she came into office, by manufacturing a fight over The Breakfast Club. A new, anonymous poster uploaded video of a college-aged AOC dancing, then deleted his Twitter account. No conservative of note found the footage offensive. And as Kelsey Harkness of the Heritage Foundation noted, “for all we know [whoever posted it] could have been an Ocasio-Cortez staffer.”

Despite the lack of evidence, the media — to coin a phrase — pounced. Somehow the non-event proved that every conservative in America is John Lithgow in Footloose.

Cortez ended the imaginary controversy by busting a move in the halls of Congress. And that set the template: Release a lie that puts conservatives in a bad light, then dance on her fallen opponents. (Cue Nancy Sinatra.)

Soon she rolled out a video of a “lightning round” about campaign finance. Her testimony claimed that shadowy corporations manipulate Donald Trump. Again, it went viral. But the footage omitted the rebuttal. One of the witnesses, Brad Smith of the Institute for Free Speech, exposed the serial fabrications in her “bad guy” rant. She did not understand the term “dark money,” its reporting requirements, or its effect on politics.

The problem is not just that she refuses to acknowledge any error. It’s that she denies the very words that came out of her mouth hours, even minutes earlier.

Caught in the Act

She got caught in the act by right-wing gotcha journalist Stephen Colbert. After she spent her interview defending socialism and 70 percent tax rates, she closed the segment on January 21 by grousing:

AOC: People are yelling, ya know, “She’s a socialist! She wants 70 percent marginal tax rates!” …

Colbert: But I want to point out, “She’s a socialist! She wants 70% tax rates!” Those are both accurate, right?

AOC (laughs): Yeah, I guess so.

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She showed the same indifference to reality toward her Green New Deal. On February 7, NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked her, “Are you prepared to put on the table that, yes, actually, [conservative critics are] right, what [the Green New Deal] requires is massive government intervention?”

“It does. It does,” she replied. “Yeah, I have no problem saying that.”

The very same day she complained to Chuck Todd that “the Right does try to mischaracterize what we’re doing as though it’s like some massive government takeover.” Cortez clarified, “Obviously, what we’re trying to do is — well, it’s obviously not that.”

But the wheels were coming off. Critics were laughing at her. Another viral video was needed.

So, the next day, AOC adviser Robert Hockett told Tucker Carlson that she never promised welfare to people who are “unwilling to work.” That phrase came from a “doctored document.” Hockett admitted the next day that he spoke erroneously and claimed he was confused.

In each of these instances, AOC found herself victimized by people quoting her verbatim and in context. So, she had to deny they were her words.

The next day AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, claimed that all this confusion came about because somehow an early draft of the Green New Deal “got leaked.” But the story came from NPR, not exactly the right-wing noise machine. And it reported precisely who did the leaking: The entire text had been “provided to NPR by Ocasio-Cortez’s office.” This mysterious individual also posted the full document on AOC’s website, where it remained for days.

This was no leak. It was a triumphant unveiling that backfired.

AOC’s Gaslighting of America

But AOC has not been above delving into the land of fantasy when it suited her purposes. On February 22, she accused Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff, Josh Holmes, of “running a multimillion dollar operation to have bot accounts manipulate online discourse.” There was no evidence. To her credit, she later deleted the tweet.

The nation has reaped a cornucopia of Cortez-generated falsehoods during the two short months she has been in office. It does not include her basic civics gaffes, her leaps of logic, or mathematical inventions.

These are willful distortions of verifiable facts about her positions on the issues, her plans for the country, and anyone who dares to criticize them.

It’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s gaslighting of America.

Lies debase political discourse the same way counterfeiting debases commerce: They shortchange the recipient. In this case, that’s the American people.

She contends that she is being held to a higher standard.

Maybe our racist, sexist, cisgendered, Eurocentric, patriarchal, heteronormative society really is so benighted that it cannot bear to let a young Latinx “speak her truth.” Then again, maybe falsehood trails AOC around like a hound dog slavishly follows the person constantly shoving tasty morsels into its mouth.

She has apparently decided socialism in general, and presentation of its tents in particular, cannot withstand scrutiny. She can either change her views and admit error, or change reality.

A Lie Told to Injure

Her lies about her opponents are indefensible. Thomas Aquinas makes clear in the Summa Theologica that a lie told “in order to injure one’s neighbor, in his person, his possessions, or his good name … is a mortal sin” (ST II-II.110.4). This is important for someone like AOC, who fancies herself a Catholic spokeswoman.

Her fibs about her policies are worse yet. Lies debase political discourse the same way counterfeiting debases commerce: They shortchange the recipient. In this case, that’s the American people. They will suffer the same kinds of economic crises of rationing, cronyism, and shortages as every other nation that has implemented socialism.

Socialism’s economic record cannot be debated. It can only be distorted. And that’s exactly what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing.


Rev. Ben Johnson is an Eastern Orthodox priest and managing editor of the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty. His views are his own.

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