In late January 2020, memes circulated on Twitter claiming that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said that “the “nly reason President Trump is keeping his campaign promises is to influence the outcome of the 2020 election”:
"The only reason Trump is keeping his campaign promises is to influence the outcome of the election." ~ AOC
So AOC..please preach some more for us here..
— J. C. 🇺🇸 (@therealarmyvet) January 30, 2020
Spreading as a “real quote,” the inherent humor was fairly obvious with a joke built in to the commentary. Had Ocasio-Cortez truly said some variation of the remark, she would have been unwittingly praising President Trump as “keeping his campaign promises,” something characterized in that quote as a dirty trick to “get re-elected” in 2020. Further implied was that Ocasio-Cortez was somehow unaware that the purpose of campaign promises is to fulfill them, thus earning re-election through a strong track record of in-office accomplishments.
We found no iterations of the quote or variations of it prior to January 26 2020, when it began spreading in text form on Twitter. Nearly always accompanied by laughing emoji symbols, the quote was shared verbatim by users — often alongside commentary such as “yes, she really did say that,” or “she’s really that stupid,” or some variation thereof:
Did @AOC really say
“The only reason Trump is keeping his campaign promises is to influence the outcome of the next election.”
— American Conservative (@JimSTruthBTold) January 29, 2020
By early February, iterations of the claim migrated to Facebook. Within a week, image memes of the same or similar quotes began spreading there:
A late January 2020 Facebook post utilized the first version of the quote (“‘The only reason Trump is keeping his election promises is to influence the next election’ AOC”):
By February 22 2020, the verbiage changed (to “Trump is only keeping his campaign promises in order to get re-elected – AOC”), but the posts were visually similar:
On February 6 2020, iFunny indexed the “Spock” version of the meme. And on March 5 2020, @MAFAGIRL4LYF shared a slightly different iteration. An appended image looked as if it was originally posted on Facebook or Snapchat, but we were unable to locate any posts with similar wording.
Atop an image of Ocasio-Cortez, text at the top read “More brilliance from AOC.” Underneath that, text peppered with emojis read:
Here is my new favorite “gem” of hers….
“Trump is only keeping his campaign promises because he is trying to get re-elected.”
Yes boys and girls.. She actually said that.
As we have pointed out before, there appears to often be an inverse correlation between the veracity of any meme-based claim and its comorbidity with the phrases “yes, [person] really said this,” or “yes, this is real,” or most commonly, “you just can’t make this shit up.” Particularly with the latter, memes using said wording seemed more often than not to be in fact featuring “shit” that someone really did just “make up.”
Predictably, all searches of any instance where Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “Trump is only keeping his campaign promises because he is trying to get re-elected [in 2020]” or “the only reason Trump is keeping his election promises is to influence the next election” led solely to memes. Had Ocasi0-Cortez truly made any public statement resembling these memes, there would not only be a record of such statements; it would also be extremely popular on certain blogs and websites. Not only is its absence near proof-positive the quotes were fabricated, it existed in no other form than in tweets and Facebook posts mocking the purported quote.