Fox News's Sean Hannity Calls Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a 'Genius,' Says She's 'Leading the Democratic Party'

Sean Hannity derided senior Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, on his Fox News show Monday. The House Speaker, he said, was "utterly controlled" by "new radicals" like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who he called, "the person that's really leading the Democratic party."

"Pelosi now presides over what is the most radical, extreme group of socialist Democrats that have ever existed," he told viewers. "She knows her power is in jeopardy every day. She will go with their every whim."

Homing in on the New York congresswoman's proposed "Green New Deal," Hannity suggested the "Democratic genius" behaved hypocritically by flying to the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin,Texas, over the weekend. The representative, he added, "found time to bash capitalism and America in the process."

Ocasio-Cortez criticized the "ideology" of capitalism at the Austin event Saturday, telling an audience it "means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental cost." Capitalism, she said, is "not sustainable and cannot be redeemed."

Hannity rebuked the congresswoman's view, claiming that capitalism has "lifted more people out of poverty than any other system in the history of mankind."

In the U.S., overall poverty rates have dropped in recent years, from 14.9 percent in 2008 to 2012 to 14.6 percent in 2013 to 2017, according to statistics from the Census Bureau. In 2017, some 12.3 percent of the population were living in poverty.

Last year, the United Nations sent special rapporteur Philip Alston to the U.S. to investigate levels of extreme poverty that have seen the re-emergence of hookworm in Alabama, as NPR previously reported. Alston noted a steady undermining of democracy, an illusory emphasis on employment and a lack of basic social protection, among other factors, in his report.

Hannity went on to suggest Ocasio-Cortez wanted to trade-in capitalism for a socialist system "like Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba [and] the Former Soviet Union." The representative, he claimed, had called the U.S. "basically a garbage country" in her SXSW interview.

Addressing controversy over progressive policies such as "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez said Saturday, "We've strayed so far away from what has really made us powerful and just and good and equitable and productive."

Describing a "slow erosion" from the fight for struggling working people in American politics, she added: "All of these things sound radical compared to where we are, but where we are is not a good thing. This idea of like 10 percent better from garbage shouldn't be what we settle for."

Some progressive policies championed by Ocasio-Cortez and others, like the Green New Deal, have divided Democrats. While California senator Dianne Feinstein and freshman representative Elissa Slotkin from Michigan support efforts to combat climate change, they have argued the plan is too ambitious, USA Today noted.

Pelosi herself appeared to dismiss the plan in a February interview with Politico, referring to it as "the green dream or whatever they call it."

But others have embraced the resolution. Candidates for the upcoming 2020 elections, including Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, California senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, all support the Green New Deal.

Sean Hannity, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the SXSW premiere of the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House,” at The Paramount Theater, in Austin, Texas, on March 10. Fox News Host Sean Hannity referred to the Democrat as both a “new radical” and a “genius.” Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Netflix