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‘AOC Announces She’s in Therapy’ and ‘Implies Lawmakers Effectively Served in War’ Interview Excerpt

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) "announced" she sought therapy after the events of January 6 2021, despite the fact she was "never in any apparent danger."

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A May 25 2021 WesternJournal.com editorial headlined, “AOC Announces She’s in Therapy After Jan. 6, Implies Lawmakers Effectively ‘Served in War,” began — as one might expect — with a lot of inaccuracies and general downplaying of the January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection (which resulted in at least five deaths) and only got worse from there:

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York continues to raise the bar with regard to hyperbolic and absurd statements.

Following the Jan. 6 [2021] Capitol incursion, in which the congresswoman was never in any apparent danger, she has disclosed she is in therapy. Ocasio-Cortez also compared the experiences of lawmakers on that day to those of troops who have fought in actual combat.

During an interview published last week [on May 21 2021] with Latino USA, the New York Democrat spoke extensively about the riot that briefly suspended now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College certification. That riot was so emotionally scarring, according to AOC, that lawmakers, such as herself, might as well have “served in war” after the legislative process was briefly disrupted.

WesternJournal.com, a known disinformation purveyor that has only a nodding acquaintance with citations, repeatedly described the insurrection as an “incursion,” heavily hinting that Ocasio-Cortez exaggerated the intensity of a violent riot that left at least five people dead. “Therapy” was mentioned a few paragraphs down, alongside the fabricated and disproved claim that the lawmaker was not in the Capitol at the time of the attack:

“After the 6th, I took some time and it was really [Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts], when I spoke to her what happened to me, like the day of, because I ran to her office and she was like, ‘you need to recognize trauma,’” Ocasio-Cortez told the outlet.

How bad was that “trauma?” So severe that the second-term Democratic House member said she’s in therapy to cope with the experience.

“Oh yeah, I’m doing therapy but also I’ve just slowed down,” she said. “I think the Trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode. And so, I’ve been putting myself in a more practice space.”

AOC in fact compared her perception of the Capitol incursion to the death of her father.

[…]

What an insult to combat veterans everywhere. Ironically, AOC wasn’t even in the Capitol building during the riot which she claimed has left her traumatized. The lawmaker was actually in the nearby Cannon building.

We addressed disinformation about Ocasio-Cortez’s purported absence from the Capitol in a February 3 2021 fact check:

Was AOC ‘Not in the Capitol’ During Riots on January 6 2021?

On January 8 2021, we addressed nascent denials that the insurrection was malicious in nature, addressing participants who were observed carrying plastic restraints and bear and wasp spray:

Zip Ties and the Capitol Riots

Western Journal was not the only disinformation blog mocking AOC’s Latino USA article on May 25 2021 (four days after it aired), as Daily Wire published a similar piece in what appeared to be a coordinated attack. Complicating matters was the fact that the interview that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Latino USA interview was in the form of a podcast, with portions sometimes selectively transcribed.

Latino USA embedded the entire podcast on a page published on May 21 2021, summarizing the 42-minute-long interview:

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made it through a year with historic implications: the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic downturn, Black Lives Matter protests, a presidential election, an attempted coup, and the latest iteration of an ongoing border crisis, among countless more headlines.

In an intimate, in-person interview with Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa, Ocasio-Cortez —or AOC, as she’s often called— opens up about some of these major moments. She discusses the lasting impact of the January 6 [2021] Capitol riots, and the need to recognize and process trauma in the weeks and months after the insurrection. The congresswoman also talks about what she’s been doing and witnessing as the world collectively lived through a global pandemic. Her district, New York’s 14 in the Bronx and Queens, is home to a large Black, Brown, and immigrant community. It was also among the hardest hit areas as COVID-19 raged through New York City last year. AOC was often on the ground, delivering food and supplies to those in need.

Ocasio-Cortez also goes deep about her personal identity, and her thoughts on being a young, influential Latina in U.S. politics. She addresses the question of being “Latina enough,” touches on the role of American history in shaping our ideas of identity and legacy, and underscores the importance of learning about our own communities.

Although we were unable to find a complete transcript of Ocasio-Cortez’s Latino USA interview, several outlets covered its content and provided excerpts. An NBC News article published on May 21 2021 opened with reporting about the events of January 6 2021, and the danger to lawmakers as the Capitol was breached:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she still thinks about the “extraordinarily traumatizing event” that took place at the Capitol four months ago, when hundreds of rioters stormed into the building and came dangerously close to then-Vice President Mike Pence.

“Pence was taken out of the Senate chamber something like 60 seconds before these terrorists, insurrectionists got into the Senate chamber,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a conversation with the journalist Maria Hinojosa, airing Friday on the weekly public radio show “Latino USA” and shared in advance with NBC News.

“Pence was the one person, arguably, that had one of the most important roles in making sure that procedurally the Electoral College counts went on as proceeded. Sixty seconds could have meant potentially the difference between what we have right now and a martial state,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This was an all-out attempted coup.”

“If 60 seconds went differently, if a different door was opened, if a chair wasn’t barricaded in a certain way, we could have a completely different reality right now,” she said. “We don’t want to acknowledge that that’s how close we got, but that is how close we got.”

Latino USA tweeted a longer version of the excerpt above on May 20 2021, in which Ocasio-Cortez described the insurrection as “an all-out attempted coup,” and describes how close the United States came to losing democracy entirely on that day:

Although Western Journal characterized AOC’s interview as “hyperbolic and absurd,” detail about insurrectionists missing former Vice President Mike Pence by “60 seconds” was widely reported in the weeks after the attack.

NBC quoted Ocasio-Cortez about the proximity to a violent mob, and her response was neither “hyperbolic” nor “absurd” when compared to information shared by law enforcement with journalists:

“If 60 seconds went differently, if a different door was opened, if a chair wasn’t barricaded in a certain way, we could have a completely different reality right now,” she said. “We don’t want to acknowledge that that’s how close we got, but that is how close we got.”

As for AOC’s purportedly having “announced she’s in therapy,” that exchange was available in both video and print formats. A May 21 2021 MSNBC interview with Maria Hinojosa about her podcast for Latino USA on the day it was released demonstrated that she had made no such “announcement.”

Hinojosa was the one to bring up “therapy,” introducing the phrase “doing therapy,” and Ocasio-Cortez responded:

[Hinojosa]: So you’re doing therapy?

[Ocasio-Cortez]: Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m doing therapy, but also I’ve just slowed down. I think the Trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode. And so I’ve been putting myself in a more proactive space.

Western Journal also asserted “AOC in fact compared her perception of the Capitol incursion to the death of her father.” Independent.co.uk provided an actual quote from Ocasio-Cortez about her father, the attack, and its effects on her — and it accurately described her “announcement” as what it actually was, the answer to a direct question:

“And I feel like I learned this the hard way [about processing traumatic events] after my father had passed away when I was a teenager… That happened at a young age and I locked it away. You have to live with it for years.”

Asked if she was in therapy, she replied: “Oh yeah, I’m doing therapy but also I’ve just slowed down. I think the Trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode.”

Ocasio-Cortez in no way compared the January 6 2021 attack to her father’s death — she said that she did not properly work through the death of her father, and had to learn later to not suppress emotions. Having endured the loss of a parent at an early age, she described having to “live with it for years,” perhaps leading to her “proactive space” (not “practice space,” whatever that is.)

On May 25 2021, Western Journal and other partisan outlets took advantage of the fact Latino USA’s article lacked a transcript to deceptively quote the audio interview to make inaccurate claims about what she had actually said, and to once again downplay the attack. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s survival on that day was not an indication she was “never” in any danger; making such an inference is an example of survivorship bias. The lawmaker also did not make an announcement or a proclamation that she was in therapy (she answered a question about therapy), she did not compare the attack to her father’s death (she referenced it in response to a question about suppressing trauma), and the events of the Capitol insurrection were not “her perception” — volumes of incriminating material and the deaths of at least five people made it clear that she and other lawmakers (including then-Vice President Mike Pence) were in grave danger during the attack. Overall, the misleading excerpts of Ocasio-Cortez’s interview were Decontextualized, and not just that — they were misreported in a way that made it clear that there was a very specific narrative that these disinformation purveyors wanted to push.