In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., addressed his confrontation with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Yoho, who is retiring at the end of his term, apologized for the “abrupt manner” of their conversation while continuing to deny a report that he used a sexist expletive.
“I stand before you this morning to address the strife I injected into the already contentious Congress,” Yoho said, reading from prepared remarks. “I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York. It is true we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful.”
He concluded by saying he “cannot apologize for my passion.”
Ocasio-Cortez responded to Yoho’s speech, saying she didn’t consider it an apology.
“Republican responds to calling a colleague ‘disgusting’ & a ‘f—ing b*tch’ w/ ‘I cannot apologize for my passion’ and blaming others,” she tweeted. “I will not teach my nieces and young people watching that this an apology, and what they should learn to accept. Yoho is refusing responsibility.”
Ocasio-Cortez told Yahoo News that the Florida Republican put his finger in her face and flew into a “rage” as she was heading in to a vote on Monday.
According to Ocasio-Cortez, Yoho came “out of nowhere” and “started going off about shootings and bread and nonsense, calling me crazy, shameful, out of my mind, etc.”
“At first I tried to talk to him, but that just made him yell over me more,” she continued. “I said he was being rude and that this was unbelievable and started to walk away. He said, ‘I’M RUDE? You’re calling ME rude?!’ And I just kept walking to my vote.”
According to The Hill, which first reported the incident, Yoho called Ocasio-Cortez a “f***ing bitch” as he walked away. Yoho denied using those words.
“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language,” he said. “The offensive, name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way, I apologize for misunderstanding.”
Ocasio-Cortez told Yahoo News she did not hear exactly what he said at the time.
“He kept muttering insults at me as I was walking away, but I didn’t try to make it out,” she said. “I actually confronted him later that day about what he did, and he doubled down, yelling at me again for a second time later in the afternoon.”
Yoho’s remarks on the Capitol steps may have been triggered by comments Ocasio-Cortez made during a virtual town hall about a recent spike in crime in New York City.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the Bronx and Queens in Congress, said “economic desperation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic is partly to blame.
“Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent, and so they go out and they need to feed their child and they don’t have money,” she said. “They’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry that night.”
The comments were featured on Fox News and by other outlets, accusing her of conflating petty crime and gun violence.
Ocasio-Cortez said her comments were purposely taken out of context by the right, but she couldn't recall any past conversations with Yoho on this or any other topic.
“As my colleagues know, I’m passionate about those affected by poverty,” Yoho said in his speech on the House floor. “My wife and I started out at the age of 19 with nothing. We did odd jobs and we were on food stamps. I know the face of poverty, and for a time it was mine.
“That is why I know people in this country with all its faults can rise up and succeed and not be encouraged to break the law,” Yoho continued. “I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding, that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of our country in mind and the people we serve.
“I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my God, my family or my country,” he added.
It’s unclear what, if any, repercussions Yoho could face for his conduct.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had called on Yoho to apologize on the House floor.
“Mr. Yoho owes not only the congresswoman an apology, but also an apology on the floor of the House of Representatives,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.
“It was the act of a bully,” the Maryland Democrat added. “Bottom line, I think it was despicable conduct. It needs to be sanctioned.”
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