WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that a Republican congressman stuck his finger in her face, called her “disgusting” and “crazy” and continued to lob insults at her even as she walked away from the confrontation.
Ocasio-Cortez said the congressman, Ted Yoho of Florida, initiated the first confrontation on the steps up to the Capitol ahead of votes on Monday. She said she walked away from the initial conversation and heard him continue to insult her.
“I hear him just kind of like lobbing these insults at me but I just kept walking into votes," she told reporters on Tuesday.
As first reported by The Hill, Yoho approached Ocasio-Cortez as she was walking up the Capitol steps to cast a vote on the House floor and told her she was "disgusting" for recently suggesting that unemployment and poverty were leading to a rise in crime in New York City.
"You are out of your freaking mind," Yoho said to the congresswoman, who then told him that he was “rude,” said the report, which said their conversation was overheard by a reporter.
Joined by fellow Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, Yoho then walked down the steps and said, "f---ing bitch," The Hill reported.
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesman for Yoho denied using the slur.
"He did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill or any name for that matter," said the spokesman, Brian Kaveney, who added, "Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her polices to be: bulls---."
Yoho addressed the exchange in prepared remarks delivered on the House floor on Wednesday, apologizing for the "abrupt manner" of his Monday comments but insisting he didn't use any "offensive name-calling words."
Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday that she did not hear the slur, but she didn't dispute the Hill's report either. The New York congresswoman said Yoho confronted her a second time later Monday with another round of profane insults, saying, "He starts screaming saying all these other terrible things about me again kind of essentially doubling tripling down.”
She also addressed the incident in a series of tweets earlier Tuesday.
Williams told The Hill that he was not really paying attention to the exchange despite having been in close proximity to Yoho.
“I was thinking about some issues I've got in my district that need to get done," Williams said, according to The Hill.
Reacting to Williams’ comment, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday, "Gotta love Republican courage from Rep @RogerWilliamsTX: when he undeniably sees another man engaged in virulent harassment of a young woman, just pretend you never saw it in the most cartoonish manner possible and keep pushing."
"(He’s lying, by the way. He joined in w/ Yoho)," she said in the tweet.
Ocasio-Cortez then said in a follow-up tweet that Williams yelled at her, too, about “throwing urine.”
The remarks Yoho appeared to be referring to, as noted by The Hill, were from July 9 when Ocasio-Cortez said at an event, "Crime is a problem of a diseased society, which neglects its marginalized people."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday that Yoho should both apologize and face punishment.
“Mr. Yoho owes not only the congresswoman an apology but also an apology on the floor of the House of Representatives," he said. "Bottom line, I think it was despicable conduct and needs to be sanctioned.”
At a news conference later Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he was going with Yoho later in the afternoon about the reported remarks.
Several of Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic colleagues defended her Tuesday while taking aim at Yoho.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., also tweeted: "I have suggested the same thing that @aoc has poverty & unemployment lead to crime. Weird neither Yoho or any other member has ever talked to me that way."