Ocasio-Cortez's strategy against 'bad-faith attacks'

One of the rules of political communications in Washington, D.C., has always been not to give oxygen to false and malicious attacks. But the rise of President Trump — from reality show star to counterpuncher in chief — has undermined that conventional wisdom, especially for a younger generation of politicians comfortable with social media.

Case in point: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“I grew up seeing these attacks on Nancy Pelosi,” Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old progressive freshman Democrat from New York, told NY1 in an interview that aired Monday night. “I grew up with these attacks on Barack Obama. I grew up with these bad-faith attacks, even on Hillary Clinton. And so we know what’s going on. And I feel like what I’ve chosen to do is break this fourth wall a little bit and respond to them.”

“We saw how completely unfounded attacks, like the birther movement with President Obama,” she continued. “They were ignored because it was beneath the president to respond to these things. But then they started to grow, and as we say, they grow legs and start walking around.”

Obama was initially reluctant to respond to the conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya, which first cropped up during the 2008 presidential campaign and then again in 2011, when Trump picked up the idea to generate publicity for himself and his NBC reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

The White House eventually released Obama’s’ long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii because, as the president told reporters, the story was becoming a distraction to his agenda.

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” Obama said in April 2011.

But by then it was entrenched on the right, and there are still some die-hards who refuse to accept it.

Ocasio-Cortez has used her massive Twitter platform (and her 3.41 million followers) effectively to slay would-be rumors and distractions.

Just this week, she responded to a front-page New York Post expose that the champion of so-called Green New Deal is known to ride in a car.

“I think that sometimes we have to take a little bit of different tact and just squash it early and respond to them,” she said. “And be unafraid to say, ’You sound ridiculous.’”

Her interview with NY1 was, itself, part of an effort to squash a rumor that she doesn’t actually live in the Bronx, N.Y., district she represents in Congress.

“Even though it’s not a legal requirement to live in your district or your community, I think it’s important to do that,” she said during the interview, which was conducted in her Bronx apartment. “I just don’t think that you can really keep a pulse on what’s going on in your community if you’re not there every weekend.”

In an interview with the New Yorker, Ocasio-Cortez admitted the fight can be exhausting.

“It feels like an extra job,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Nw Yorker said of the attacks. “I’ve got a full-time job in Congress and then I moonlight as America’s greatest villain, or as the new hope. And it’s pretty tiring."

“I believe health care is a right and people should be paid enough to live. Those are offensive values to them," she said of her detractors on the right. "But this ravenous hysteria — it’s really getting to a level that is kind of out of control. It’s dangerous and even scary. I have days when it seems some people want to stoke just enough of it to have just enough plausible deniability if something happens to me.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the State of the Union 2019
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the State of the Union 2019
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), dressed in white in tribute to the women's suffrage movement, arrives for the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, speaks with colleagues during a State of the Union address by U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. President Donald Trump cast his fight against illegal migration to the U.S. as a moral struggle, and charged in his second State of the Union address that partisan investigations threaten economic progress under his administration. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat of New York, from left, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat of New York, and Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat of California, speak prior to a State of the Union address by U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. President Donald Trump cast his fight against illegal migration to the U.S. as a moral struggle, and charged in his second State of the Union address that partisan investigations threaten economic progress under his administration. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) smiles, dressed in white in tribute to the women's suffrage movement, as she arrives for the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. - Omar wears a pin of Jakelin Caal, the Guatemalan migrant girl who died in US custody after illegally crossing the border with her father. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, smiles as U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, delivers a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. President Donald Trump cast his fight against illegal migration to the U.S. as a moral struggle, and charged in his second State of the Union address that partisan investigations threaten economic progress under his administration. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks with other women wearing white ahead of the State of the Union address before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Democratic women wore white as a reference to the suffragette movement. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) high-fives other congresswomen after President Donald J. Trump acknowledged newly elected female members of congress during the State of the Union address before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) ahead of the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump's second State of the Union address was postponed one week due to the partial government shutdown. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 05: First row from left, Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., are seen in the House Chamber as President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 05: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right, high fives Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., as Democratic members celebrate in the House Chamber as President Donald Trump recognized their achievement of electing a record number of women to Congress, during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 5: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right, walks with her State of the Union guest Ana Maria Archila to the House chamber for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) watches President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. A group of female Democratic lawmakers chose to wear white to the speech in solidarity with women and a nod to the suffragette movement. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) watches President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. A group of female Democratic lawmakers chose to wear white to the speech in solidarity with women and a nod to the suffragette movement. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other female lawmakers cheer during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. A group of female Democratic lawmakers chose to wear white to the speech in solidarity with women and a nod to the suffragette movement. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., attends a group photo of House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center, who plan to wear 'suffragette white' to the State of the Union address to show solidarity for women's agendas on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 05: First row from left, Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Alma Adams, D-N.C., pose for a group photo of House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center, who plan to wear 'suffragette white' to the State of the Union address to show solidarity for women's agendas on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 05: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right, greets Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., after a group photo of House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center who will wear 'suffragette white' to the State of the Union address to show solidarity for women's agendas on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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