There are plenty of reasons that people can’t stop talking about Ocasio-Cortez—for a young progressive millennial like myself, her journey from New York City bartender to a political icon makes her a relatable beacon of hope in these dark political times. For the right, she’s alternately enraging and terrifying. A young outspoken Latina who proudly identifies as a Democratic Socialist and already has the sharpest social media presence in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has become a full-blown right-wing media obsession. Per NewsWhip’s Jonathan Barnes: “Right leaning publishers have written over 10x the articles about @ocasio2018 than their counterparts on the left since June 2018. Engagement numbers are staggering also.”
Of course the corporate media (Washington Post is owned by the head of Amazon) would love to smear a progressive like AOC by equating her with Trump: In an era when the president of the United States is an inveterate, habitual, daily liar, about all things great and small, and especially about himself, fact-checking sites can provide an invaluable — if increasingly overwhelmed — public service. Though the siloing off of this core function of journalism still presents, I’d submit, something of a moral hazard — the implication being that the existence of a distinct fact-check team alleviates political beat reporters from the responsibility of meticulously calling out spin and falsehoods on a routine basis — there are resource benefits to having a dedicated team focused on separating fact from fiction.
This does not mean, however, that fact-check journalism in the corporate press is free from the institutional pressures of “both sides” objectivity. Precisely because of President Trump’s unprecedented propensity to lie, there can be a latent urge among fact-checkers to find similar examples of dishonesty among the left, to provide some semblance of “fairness.” And, at times, these efforts can devolve into obtuse, bad-faith examples of nitpicking and false equivalence.
As Iowa Rep. Steve King faces increasing scrutiny over whether he supports white supremacy and white nationalism, fellow member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is weighing in on the issue. The New York representative took to Twitter to call out the media for shying away from calling King an all-out racist.
“NEWS: @stevekingia said he ‘initiated’ a convo today w/ @stevescalise to inform them he would speak on floor to address his racially-tinged remarks. Said GOP leadership hasn’t indicated any intention to censure in any way. Story TK,” Washington Examiner writer David Drucker tweeted on Friday.
“You spelled ‘racist’ wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez responded. “At this point those who use the terms ‘racially tinged’ or ‘racially charged’ to describe white supremacy should be prepared to explain why they chose to employ those terms instead of ‘racist’/‘racism.’ If the answer is their own discomfort, they’re protecting the wrong people.”