clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 key moments from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 60 Minutes interview

“If that’s what radical means, call me a radical.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on the House floor as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is elected Speaker of the House in January 2019.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on the House floor as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is elected speaker of the House in January 2019.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is fine with being called a “radical,” believes President Donald Trump is racist, and is okay with sometimes fudging facts as long as she is “morally right.”

Those were among the key moments from the new Congress member’s interview with Anderson Cooper aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is the most buzzed-about first-term member of the House of Representatives. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist has become a frequent target of conservatives, who criticize everything from her upbringing to her outfits to her bank account. She has generated heaps of media attention with her efforts to push the Democratic Party to the left, including with her Green New Deal proposal. Just last week, she surpassed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Twitter followers.

Ocasio-Cortez has ignited more chatter with her 60 Minutes sit-down, in which she did not hold back on a number of fronts.

Ocasio-Cortez said there’s “no question” Trump is racist

Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper she believes there is “no question” that Trump is a racist when asked.

“The president certainly didn’t invent racism,” she said. “But he’s also given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things.”

When Cooper asked her to explain her certainty that the president is racist, she said it’s in the “words he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy.” She pointed specifically to Trump’s equivocal reaction to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where he was hesitant to condemn the events that happened there and declared that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

“When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it’s — it’s night and day,” Ocasio-Cortez said, referring to Heather Heyer, a counterprotester who was killed in Charlottesville.

Ocasio-Cortez is fine being called a “radical”

Ocasio-Cortez is a proponent of an ambitious progressive agenda, including universal health care, tuition-free public college, and a Green New Deal to combat climate change.

Cooper noted that enacting what the New York representative is proposing is a tall order and might be considered a “radical agenda.” She responded that she’s fine with that.

“Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country,” she said. “Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security.”

“Do you call yourself a radical?” Cooper asked.

“Yeah. You know, if that’s what radical means, call me a radical,” Ocasio-Cortez responded.

She’s not worried about how to pay for things

Beyond the ambition of Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, it’s also expensive.

Her response: Republicans didn’t worry about paying for their $1.5 trillion tax cut bill, so why should she be forced to do the math on every single thing she puts forward?

“No one asks how we’re going to pay for this Space Force. No one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut,” she said. “We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, health care, and education. How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that we pay for military increases for this Space Force. For all of these ambitious policies.”

For the funds for the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez suggested a top marginal income tax rate of as high as 70 percent. The proposal has roiled conservatives, but as Vox’s Matt Yglesias explained last week, it makes sense:

Seventy percent is a lot higher than the current rate and will doubtless fuel the conservative effort to paint AOC as a know-nothing, but the number is in line with one prominent strain of recent economics research and is at least moderately well supported by America’s historical experience.

Ocasio-Cortez is more concerned about being “morally right” than getting all the facts straight all of the time

Ocasio-Cortez, like any politician, has at times overstated or misstated some facts and figures. For example, she raised eyebrows with a tweet in December declaring that $21 trillion in “Pentagon accounting errors” could pay for a major chunk of Medicare for All expenses. The tweet earned her four Pinocchios from the Washington Post because it wasn’t true.

“If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest through the trees,” Ocasio-Cortez said when asked about the matter on 60 Minutes. “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

Ocasio-Cortez, because of her age and gender, often seems to be held to a different standard than other politicians. She clarified to Cooper that being factually correct is “absolutely important” and said that when she makes a mistake she admits it and restates her point.

“It’s not the same thing as … the president lying about immigrants,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez is … sort of sorry to Donald Trump Jr.

In December, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, put a meme on Instagram suggesting socialists eat dogs.

View this post on Instagram

It’s funny cuz it’s true!!!

A post shared by Donald Trump Jr. (@donaldjtrumpjr) on

Ocasio-Cortez responded with a reminder of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, saying that Trump Jr. “has a habit of posting nonsense about me whenever the Mueller investigation heats up” and that it was unwise to “troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power.”

Cooper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether that was an abuse of power on her part, as some onlookers have suggested. She responded, laughing, “Well, if he felt genuinely threatened by me, I apologize, but I think that, frankly, it’s legal advice that any person would give.”

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.