Go ahead, “call me radical,” newly sworn-in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Anderson Cooper in an interview on “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday in which she also called President Trump a racist.
The 29-year-old Boston University graduate, who gained notoriety this past fall after defeating a longtime incumbent in her New York Democratic primary, has become the youngest woman to ever serve in the US Congress. In the interview that aired Sunday night on CBS, Ocasio-Cortez outlined some of her ambitious policy proposals — as well as her frank thoughts on Trump.
Although the freshman congresswoman acknowledged during the interview that she doesn’t often speak about the president — “I think he’s a symptom of a problem,” she said by way of an explanation — she did have choice words to say about him when Cooper asked.
“The president certainly didn’t invent racism. But he’s certainly given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things,” she said.
When Cooper asked if she thought Trump was a racist, Ocasio-Cortez did not hesitate before answering: “Yeah. Yeah. No question.”
When Cooper asked her how she could say that, she explained further: “When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy. When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it’s night and day.”
In response, a White House spokesperson told “60 Minutes” that “Ocasio-Cortez’s sheer ignorance on the matter can’t cover the fact that President Trump supported and passed historic criminal justice reform” and noted that Trump “has repeatedly condemned racism and bigotry in all forms.”
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Ocasio-Cortez also spoke about her progressive policy ideas, as well as how she planned to pay for them. For starters, she floated the idea of a marginal tax in which the very rich would pay as much as 70 percent on a portion of their income to fund her programs, including a “Green New Deal,” which would convert the entire US economy to renewable energy sources.
“People are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
When Cooper continued to press Ocasio-Cortez on how she would pay for her proposals, she replied, “No one asks how we’re going to pay for this Space Force. No one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut. We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, healthcare, and education.”
Cooper also pressed Ocasio-Cortez on some factual mistakes she has made when it comes to numbers and policy.
“I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez stressed that although being factually correct is “absolutely important,” she defended herself and said that, “Whenever I make a mistake, I say, ‘Okay, this was clumsy,’ and then I restate what my point was. But it’s not the same thing as the president lying about immigrants. It’s not the same thing, at all.”
Ocasio-Cortez also acknowledged that her tactics on eliminating the influence of corporate money in politics were angering some of her colleagues in the US House, telling Cooper: “It’s absolutely risky. It requires risk to try something new, but also we know so much of what we’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked, either.”
The segment also touched on her upbringing, noting that she was born in the Bronx but grew up and went to school in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., a town in Westchester County.
“My mom wanted to make sure that I had a solid chance and a solid education,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to attend and graduate from Boston University’s College of Arts & Sciences in 2011, with a degree in economics and international relations.
She said that her family was working on “the classic American dream” when her father died of cancer during her sophomore year at BU.
“Overnight it was all taken away,” she said. “My mom was back to cleaning homes and driving school buses to keep a roof over our heads.”
After graduating, she moved back to the Bronx, where she eventually decided to launch a congressional campaign.
As an elected official, Ocasio-Cortez has made headlines after breaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by saying she would vote against a package of legislative rules because it contained an austerity provision — colloquially referred to as “paygo” — that was demanded by centrists. She also gained attention on Thursday — the same day she was sworn in — as supporters came to her defense online after a small contingent of Internet dwellers tried to use a video of her dancing on a rooftop in a BU shirt as a means to discredit her. (She responded the next day with a lighthearted tweet.)
Maddie Kilgannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.