Ocasio-Cortez Challenges Donald Trump, Media on 'White Supremacist' Versus 'Terrorist' Labels

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate running for a House seat from New York's 14th District, challenged the Trump administration "caravan" narrative and asked supporters to push back against white supremacy in the wake of the Pittsburgh hate crime attack.

The 29-year-old Democratic Socialist has repeatedly challenged the talking points of both President Donald Trump and established members of the Democratic Party. But her recent move to refocus her efforts on white supremacist violence rather than "undocumented immigrants" prompted vicious right-wing criticism. Using her social media platforms with hundreds of thousands of followers, Ocasio-Cortez compared how Trump supporters and Americans at large would treat Saturday's deadly synagogue shooting had it been conducted by Islamic terrorists rather than a white supremacist.

"Imagine if it was ISIS that sent bombs to US officials, started shooting in grocery stores, and invading places of worship. How do you think this administration would respond? & why is the response so different when those same terrorist acts are committed by white supremacists?" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Twitter
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 14th District Democratic House candidate in New York, challenged the Trump administration "caravan" narrative and is instead asking supporters to push back against white supremacy in the wake of the Pittsburgh hate crime attack. Screenshot: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Twitter

"White supremacists committed the largest share of domestic-extremist related killings in 2017. It's time to call these bombings + targeted mass shootings what they are: terrorist attacks," she tweeted Saturday, sharing an Atlantic article about "The Resurgent Threat of White-Supremacist Violence."

On Friday, she pushed back against an NBC News headline in which the network "adopted" the language of the president in an article detailing Trump and National Security Adviser John Bolton's efforts to block asylum-seekers. She questioned why NBC, or any other media outlet, would co-opt what she saw as the president's racist rhetorical posturing.

"These are human beings seeking asylum, not a 'caravan,' and not 'undocumented immigrants.' Repeating Trump's rhetoric without fact-check is completely irresponsible, especially in a time of rising white supremacist violence. At this point if you are an outlet adopting the President's language to describe this as a 'caravan,' you're playing yourself. And letting him play you," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted as she called out Politico.

Her previous social media posts reflected her belief that right-wing news and social media websites such as Fox News, Breitbart and Gab "amplify + provide platforms to conspiracy theories that target different groups (immigrants, Black communities, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ+, the poor), then weave that hate together. The violence this week isn't an accident."

Ocasio-Cortez called on other community leaders to help Jewish and black Americans defeat "the rising forces of racism + anti-Semitism" across the country. She also joined in FiveThirtyEight writer Nate Silver's thread that pushed back against Fox News's support of an Elders of Zion-inspired conspiracy theory claiming a connection between George Soros and the immigrant "caravan."

A Muslim writer responding to Ocasio-Cortez's "terrorism" versus "white supremacist" tweet asked her to rethink making the term "terrorist" more inclusive.

"I understand the sentiment & appreciate your intentions here, but as a Muslim, I think it's important that we do not try to make the term "terrorism" more inclusive, but rather challenge the very notion of the term itself as it has been racialized," tweeted Hoda Katebi. Ocasio-Cortez thanked the woman for her perspective on the subject.