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'Having a daughter does not make a man decent': Ocasio-Cortez criticizes Rep. Yoho for 'refusing responsibility' in his apology

Jason Lalljee USA TODAY
Winter Haven News Chief

Standing on the House floor Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressed comments made earlier this week by Rep. Ted Yoho, saying that his language was "dehumanizing" and criticizing his apology for using "women, wives, and daughters as shields and excuses for poor behavior."

The Hill initially reported that Yoho confronted Ocasio-Cortez in a Capitol staircase on Monday, telling her that she was "disgusting" for linking a rise in crime to the unemployment caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Yoho said "f------ b----," as she left, according to The Hill.

On the House floor Wednesday, the Florida Republican denied that his use of profanity had been directed at Ocasio-Cortez and apologized for the "abrupt manner of the conversation" he had with her.

"Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of my language," he said. "The 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."

Rep. Yoho said that he was "passionate about those affected by poverty" because he was poor "for a time," and that he could not "apologize for [his] passion."

Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief for The Hill, responded to Yoho's denial, saying that "our story remains 100 percent accurate."

Ocasio-Cortez responded to Rep. Yoho's apology comments on the floorvia Twitter, saying that he was "refusing responsibility" and criticizing him for not naming her directly, as well as characterizing the exchange as a "conversation" instead of "verbal assault."p

Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor Thursday that she initially planned to ignore Rep. Yoho's comments, but that she "could not allow" his apology on Wednesday to be "accepted as legitimate" by Congress.

"Rep. Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behavior," she said. "And that I could not let go. I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that."

"Having a daughter does not make a man decent," she said.

Ocasio-Cortez also criticized members of the Republican Party for speaking to her "disrespectfully," in the past, and said that Rep. Roger Williams walking "shoulder to shoulder" with Rep. Yoho before Yoho accosted her was part of a larger "cultural" problem.

"This issue is... (about) a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that," she said.

“No one was accosted, bullied, or attacked," Rep. Yoho told USA Today. "This was a brief policy discussion plain and simple and we have our differences. We are both passionate members of Congress and equals."

Rep. Yoho maintains that he didn't call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez any profanities during their exchange.

"She has every right to give her account of the conversation but she doesn’t have the right to inflate, talk about my family, or give an account that did not happen for political gain. The fact still remains, I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t say,” he said.

Members of Congress condemned Rep. Yoho on the floor after Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

"I do believe (Rep. Yoho) needs to apologize," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said. "Not because it's going to make our colleague, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez feel any better, but because he, too, needs to learn what unacceptable behavior looks like and rise to the level of the office that he has been elected to."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressed Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's comments in her weekly press conference Thursday, saying "there's no limit to the disrespect or the lack of acknowledgment of the strength of women."

"We're focused on trying to save lives with our bill to kill this virus," she said. "The fact that the behavior of one of the members is such that the Democratic Women's Caucus has gone to the floor at a time when our floor time is very precious tells you how important this is."

"People make mistakes," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in his press conference Thursday. "We're a forgiving nation....he made a mistake and yes he apologized for it, and yes, the majority leader accepted it... people should not be called names, people should be treated with respect."

Contributing: William Cummings