Rookie Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez targeted by fake news

Saturday, January 12, 2019

As freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez adjusts to the limelight of Capitol Hill, the New York Democrat's affinity for sharing the experience on social media has generated overwhelming interest, not just from her fans but her critics as well.

Her interview Sunday on the highly-rated CBS program "60 Minutes" apparently didn't provide enough content for an internet troll who generated a false narrative featuring a purported nude photo of the self-described "radical," progressive superstar.

Since bursting onto the political scene with a major primary upset of a veteran Democrat, Ocasio-Cortez, 29, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress has become a prime target for her detractors, mainly conservatives, on the internet.

Her latest high-profile moment came Wednesday evening, as Ocasio-Cortez slammed the conservative media website The Daily Caller for spreading a story in a tweet that stated: "Here's The Photo Some Described As A Nude Selfie Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez."

The photo is not of Ocasio-Cortez.

The Daily Caller responded by not only deleting the tweet, but also removing the full story from its website -- excusing itself as the third media outlet to publish stories about a post on Reddit and 4chan, where the photo first appeared and falsely charged that in 2016 Ocasio-Cortez shared the photo to her Instagram account, where a woman's breasts reflected off a bathtub faucet.

The photo is not of Ocasio-Cortez, but rather another woman who was once caught in political controversy - Sydney Leathers, who suffered 30 minutes of inside-the-beltway fame as a sexting partner of disgraced New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Leathers blogged an apology to Ocasio-Cortez, writing she was "deeply sorry," admitting the photo was "an old picture of mine where I'm soaking in the tub, feet up, candle lit, weed vape in hand."

"This is a photo I took several years ago and have since deleted from my Instagram, because I now have a no feet for free rule, too many foot fetishists out there and I don't want to give them free content," Leathers explained. "The reason the photo is scandalous is because if you zoom in, you can see my boobs in the reflection of the bath tub faucet."

One conservative lawmaker, who has recently demonstrated he pays close attention to Ocasio-Cortez's Twitter account, defended her against online trolls.

A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez declined to add to the congresswoman's reaction on Twitter.

After taking office, Ocasio-Cortez welcomed a blitz of media coverage, landing her interview on "60 Minutes" with Anderson Cooper, in which she unabashedly accepted the charge that she's a "radical" -- comparing herself to two highly regarded U.S. presidents.

"It only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. If that's what radical means, call me a radical," she said.

And on MSNBC's "Maddow," she responded to President Donald Trump's prime-time address from the Oval Office on the border wall.

Ocasio-Cortez's has come in for more standard criticism for her policy proposals, such as restoring a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the super wealthy that once existed from the late 1910s into the early 1980s.

On "60 Minutes," Ocasio-Cortez shrugged off the high-level of scrutiny, contending that her critics are ignoring the bigger picture she is working to reveal.

"If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they're missing the forest for the trees," she told Cooper. "I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right."

As Ocasio-Cortez demonstrates her growing national clout, she has exhibited a fresh media strategy that not only has quieted detractors but elevated her fame.

Perhaps most impressive of all was a 10-second, self-deprecating video she actually did personally share on Instagram, in which she destroyed faux outrage from critics about her amateur dance moves on a rooftop as a student at Boston College.

That clip was created last week in response to criticism Ocasio-Cortez faced after a video clip resurfaced of her dancing out a scene from the "Breakfast Club" as a senior at Boston College in 2010.

Despite quickly overshadowing some veteran colleagues in her caucus, Democratic leaders believe Ocasio-Cortez's star power also has the potential to help generate attention for the agenda of the new House majority.

"I think the fact that a lot of people are following both Speaker Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a good thing, and I would hope people would continue to keep listening to their thoughts, and we're going to blend those thoughts together," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. "I think we're pretty unified as a party. I think that's a good thing. That fact that we communicate to people is also a good thing."

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