Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said virtually nothing about Matt Gaetz in public. But, given the life experience and political beliefs of the Democratic U.S. representative from New York, she likely finds her Florida Republican colleague cretinous. She’s a former bartender who skyrocketed to fame by making a moral and pragmatic case for democratic socialism. He is an alt-right hero who constantly says racist stuff and was only elected because his dad, Don Gaetz, was also a state lawmaker.
But these differences have not stopped Gaetz from making a stream of exceedingly weird and gross comments about “AOC” over the last few months. Said quotes include repeated statements that he finds her “attractive.” He’s called her “adorable.” And in a reference to the dating app Tinder, he even creepily told TMZ this month that he’d “swipe right” on the idea of working across the aisle with her.
Gaetz appears to be on some sort of weird, sustained, and sexist media campaign to capitalize on Ocasio-Cortez’s skyrocketing popularity. In a Daily Caller interview last Thursday in which he alternated between insulting her intelligence and complimenting her, Gaetz once again felt the need to comment on Ocasio-Cortez’s looks. He referred to her as an “attractive lady from Queens.”
His unsolicited thirst is extremely weird. In his repeated interviews about AOC, he condescendingly calls her ideas dumb and “dangerous for the country.” He also says she is good-looking and begs her to work with him. And he’s made similar statements in various media outlets despite the fact she has not publicly replied to any of his advances.
Reached via email, a Gaetz spokesperson said the congressman “typically tries to emphasize the positive about people.” Gaetz’s critics would surely argue that’s a difficult statement to take at face value given the many insults and offensive statements he’s made in the past.
“Specifically, in the Daily Caller article you provided he says that ‘I’m glad to count AOC as a fellow reformer who wants to change the way that Washington works,'” his spokesperson, Jillian Lane-Wyant said. “Additionally, Rep. Gaetz says in the TMZ video he would swipe right on the opportunity to do a bill with her — he specifically never expressed a desire to date her.”
Ocasio-Cortez has broken Republican brains since winning election last year. Most right-leaning pundits simply cannot stop posting about her — and then denying they cannot stop posting about her. (See: Shapiro, Benjamin.) She refuses to back down or concede anything to right-wing trolls — this seems to drive her opponents insane since they’re used to browbeating milquetoast liberals afraid to have convictions about anything.
Republican pundits sure feel entitled to demand things from the congresswoman. They keep insisting that Ocasio-Cortez “debate them” — which she astutely likens to a political form of catcalling to which she has no obligation to respond.
Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.
And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one. pic.twitter.com/rsD17Oq9qe
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 10, 2018
Laura Bassett, a HuffPost reporter, outlined last month what some have called “AOC Derangement Syndrome.” It’s an affliction that mostly impacts Republican males who can’t handle the feelings of confusion, fear, attraction, and anger they feel when they see a smart, capable, young woman who doesn’t exist to please them.
“Conservative men are confused at being drawn to this bright rising star in the Democratic Party while loathing everything she stands for,” Bassett wrote. She continued:
That’s why conservatives want and need to undercut her influence. And the most time-tested way to undermine a woman’s power is to sexualize her, to make her an object instead of an agent. A 2013 study by the Women’s Media Center found that merely discussing a female candidate’s appearance has a negative effect on her support from voters.
“The moment at which you turn someone into a sex object, you put yourself in a position of authority over them, which is why sexual harassment is classified as being a form of gender discrimination in the workplace,” [gender and politics professor Caroline] Heldman said. “They are the object who exists for you, and you are validating their worth.”
Or, as former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Jess McIntosh put it: “Defining a woman’s value by whether or not men want to have sex with her is the oldest trick in the patriarchy. Either way, she’s diminished.”
Also, it’s genuinely weird to see Gaetz be so friendly to someone whose opinions are so diametrically opposed to his own. There is seemingly no Democrat the Panhandle representative is unwilling to smear. He spends most of his days cynically defending whatever inane half-thought trickles out of Trump’s rapidly melting brain — he recently tried to tell parents of Parkland shooting victims that Trump’s border wall will do more to prevent gun violence than gun-safety laws. He also has quite a history of saying racist stuff. He has stated Haiti is a country full of “sheet metal and garbage,” has repeatedly made racist jokes about Elizabeth Warren, and has spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Elsewhere, he’s appeared on InfoWars with Alex Jones and has repeatedly hung out with Holocaust denier and likely white supremacist Chuck Johnson.
Gaetz also had a hand in ginning up fake claims that Democrats were trying to “steal” election victories from Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis — claims that were utterly fabricated and eroded Americans’ trust in democracy. (During those protests, Gaetz posted a photo with a Proud Boy wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Pepe the Frog,” the racist hate meme.) In the words of Orlando Weekly, Gaetz is “a terrible person.”
But as soon as Ocasio-Cortez burst onto the scene, things changed. Last year, after she won a second New York City primary that she did not even enter, Gaetz chimed in to call her accidental win “downright impressive.”
Things got, ahem, weirder from there. Gaetz reportedly introduced himself to her at her inauguration.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is standing on the Republican side of the floor, meeting GOP members. She just shook hands with Mark Walker, and Matt Gaetz just stopped her too. Ralph Norman and Mark Meadows now talking to her.
Republicans are, indeed, fascinated by her.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 11, 2019
And, at roughly the same time, a stream of articles magically materialized in multiple D.C. media outlets in which Gaetz cynically tried to co-opt her rise. He’s repeatedly referred to himself as the “conservative AOC,” despite sharing neither her beliefs nor her qualities. The nickname has not stuck — his ideas are generally unpopular with anyone not over age 50 — but that has not stopped Gaetz from basically begging AOC to work with him in multiple articles. He says they agree on a single issue, marijuana legalization, and wants to work with her to reform America’s pot laws. He has said as much to Politico, the Daily Caller, and perhaps most bizarrely, TMZ.
“I aspire to be the conservative AOC,” Gaetz told Politico last month. He added that he “can’t dance for shit,” which referenced the time conservatives attempted to troll her by posting a video of her dancing with friends while in college. Twitter pretty much uniformly agreed that the video instead just made her seem cool and relatable.
In fact, Gaetz even referred to the video as “adorable:”
When right-wing trolls began outright sexually harassing the congresswoman by sharing a fake “nude” photo and claiming it was her (it was not), Gaetz said he was upset no one bothered to sexually harass him, too:
But the most bizarre appearance came when Gaetz got “caught” by a TMZ cameraperson in D.C. The interview comes off as surreal and likely staged. Someone behind a camera asks Gaetz if he’s the “conservative AOC.”
“That is totally unfair,” he said. “AOC is way more interesting, and attractive, and capable than I am. I am just probably a lot more conservative. I would aspire to have her game, but I don’t think I have it in terms of engagement with the electorate.”
The cameraman then asks if he’d like to make a “power couple” on Capitol Hill with her for marijuana reform. “That might be a little presumptuous of me, but I would certainly ‘swipe right’ on the opportunity to write a cannabis bill with her,” he said with a smirk.
The piece even made it onto TMZ’s TV show with founder Harvey Levin — during the segment, a TMZ host remarked that Gaetz had “slipped in” a comment about Ocasio-Cortez’s looks.
Gaetz pulled similar moves again just last week. In a three-minute interview with the hard-right Daily Caller, the Republican vacillated between condescendingly calling Ocasio-Cortez a danger to America who doesn’t understand economics and, simultaneously, a brilliant politician with whom he’d like to work.
“To me, socialism doesn’t look like an attractive lady from Queens who’s a freshman congresswoman; it looks more like not getting toilet paper in Venezuela because there is no free-market system to acquire goods,” Gaetz said. The Daily Caller did not mention that AOC’s policy proposals are actually pretty different from those in place in Venezuela — instead, the video included a shot of Ocasio-Cortez putting on mascara and riding the subway.
“I haven’t seen anything hotter on social media since Stephanie Hammill was mixing it up with Cardi B,” Gaetz added.