Thursday morning, as a Category 4 hurricane was bearing down on the Carolina coast, the president of the United States wrote the following on Twitter:
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”
By afternoon, CNN reported that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. House Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th Congressional District, fired back with a rebuttal.
“My own grandfather died in the aftermath of the storm. Uncounted.”
Her tweet continues, and is linked below, but the impact of the first line is powerful. Ocasio-Cortez’s mother was born in Puerto Rico, so her familial ties to the island territory are strong.
My own grandfather died in the aftermath of the storm. Uncounted.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) September 13, 2018
Thousands of Puerto Ricans have similar stories. They have lost children, friends, & family members.
Instead of finger-pointing, INVEST in the Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico + just transition to renewable energy. https://t.co/ncukYyJsRu
The candidate made big news during the New York primary elections in June, when she defeated incumbent Joe Crowley to become the 2018 Democratic nominee for the general election in November. Ocasio-Cortez ran on a platform of democratic socialism, and was not expected to defeat Crowley. Prior to becoming a candidate, she had minor political experience working for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. She waited tables for a living.
Since the primary election, her life has been a whirlwind, with the highs and lows that one might expect for a person entering politics so suddenly. Notably, she came under fire from established politicians for mentioning the “occupation of Palestine” in a discussion about Israel with CNN host Margaret Hoover. She has seen some resistance within her own Democratic Party as well, because she has expressed interest in creating a socialist democratic sub-caucus within the party. However, for those on the progressive side of the Democratic Party, she has lit a fire, and is in high demand on the campaign circuit. Her response to President Trump is only likely to fan that flame.
According to The Hill, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Thursday that the president was referring to criticism from liberals when he sent his tweet. There is no mention made of Ocasio-Cortez or her tweet in the response.
“As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror. President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations.”
Politicians and media on both sides of the political divide have criticized Trump’s comments. On Twitter, user @DailyRant10 modified an image of the president’s tweet to show just how similar it is to Holocaust denial by replacing some of the words.