WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's outrage over a Republican lawmaker's verbal assault broadened into an extraordinary moment on the House floor Thursday as she and other Democrats assailed a sexist culture of "accepting violence and violent language against women" whose adherents include President Donald Trump.
A day after rejecting an offer of contrition from Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., for his language during this week's confrontation on the Capitol steps, Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues cast the incident as all-too-common behavior by men, including Trump and other Republicans.
"This issue is not about one incident," said Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. "It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that."
The remarkable outpouring, with several female lawmakers saying they'd routinely encountered such treatment over the years, came in an election year in which polls show women lean decisively against Trump, who has a history of mocking women. Trump was captured in a 2005 tape boasting about physically abusing them, and his disparagement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has included calling her "crazy."
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she'd experienced "a lifetime of insults, racism and sexism."
Pelosi herself weighed in a separate news conference.
"It's a manifestation of attitude in our society really. I can tell you that firsthand, they've called me names for at least at least 20 years of leadership, 18 years of leadership," Pelosi said of Republicans.
"Do you not have a daughter, do you not have a mother, do you not have a sister, do you not have a wife?" Pelosi said. "What makes you think that you can be so, and this is the word I use for them, condescending, in addition to being disrespectful."
In an encounter Monday witnessed by a reporter from The Hill, Yoho berated Ocasio-Cortez on the House steps for saying that some of the increased crime during the coronavirus pandemic could be traced to rising unemployment and poverty.
Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman who has made her mark as one of Congress' most outspoken progressives, described it on the House floor Thursday. She said Yoho, one of the House's most conservative members, put his finger in her face and called her disgusting, crazy and dangerous.
She also told the House that in front of reporters, he called her, "and I quote, a fucking bitch." That matched The Hill's version of what Yoho had said. Ocasio-Cortez was not there for that remark.
Ocasio-Cortez said Yoho's references to his wife and daughters as he explained his actions during brief remarks on Wednesday actually underscored the problem.
"I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women," she said. "You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women."
More than a dozen other Democrats also spoke, mostly women, in remarks that included taunts of House Republicans' overwhelmingly white male membership and warnings that the numbers of women lawmakers will only grow.
"We're not going away," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. "There is going to be more power in the hands of women across this country."