WASHINGTON – A Republican congressman offered an apology Wednesday for the “abrupt manner" he used in a verbal confrontation with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but denied aiming a sexist slur at her. Ocasio-Cortez rejected her colleague's words, saying they were “not an apology” and what she heard was a vulgar slur.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., made his remarks on the House floor a day after the freshman New York lawmaker said he'd angrily harangued her outside the Capitol over her linkage of joblessness and some recent crimes.
In an encounter that was witnessed by a reporter from The Hill newspaper, Yoho assailed her for asserting that a recent upsurge in some crimes during the coronavirus pandemic could be linked to poverty and joblessness. The publication wrote that Yoho, one of the House’s most conservative members, used a sexist slur as he walked away from Ocasio-Cortez, one of Congress' most far-left lawmakers.
“I rise to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York,” Yoho said of Monday's encounter. “It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful.”
Echoing an explanation his spokesman made on Tuesday, Yoho said that “offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding.”
Yoho seemed to suggest his actions were due to his strong feelings about the issue, saying “I'm passionate about those affected by poverty." He said he and his wife were food stamps when they were young and added, “I cannot apologize for my passion."
In a series of tweets, Ocasio-Cortez rejected Yoho's remarks, saying he hadn't mentioned her name or specified what he was apologizing for.
“Republican responds to calling a colleague ‘disgusting' & a ‘f—ing b(asterisk)tch' w/ ‘I cannot apologize for my passion' and blaming others," she wrote. “I will not teach my nieces and young people watching that this an apology, and what they should learn to accept. Yoho is refusing responsibility."
Yoho, 65, is a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and is retiring in January. In less than two years in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez, 30, has become a progressive lightning rod, clashing with President Donald Trump and other Republicans and at times other Democrats.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday that he would talk to Yoho and said lawmakers should respect each other. Spokespeople for McCarthy and Yoho did not immediately respond to messages asking if the two men had met.
Several Democrats had sprung to Ocasio-Cortez's defense, including No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who demanded an apology. On Wednesday, Hoyer spoke on the House floor immediately after Yoho made his remarks.
“The apology is appropriate. I hope that Mr. Yoho feels that apology sincerely," Hoyer said.