Accuracy in Media

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to Instagram Live this week to speak about her experience during the January 6 Capitol riot and claimed she feared for her life as she hid in her office.

“I thought I was going to die… I hear huge, violent bangs on my door and every door going into my office. Like someone was trying to break the door down… I have never been quieter in my entire life. I held my breath. This was the moment where I thought everything was over.”

 The media immediately ran with this story, issuing a flurry of headlines like the following:

CNN: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reveals brutal truth

The Washington Post: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her personal story and revealed our collective trauma

Variety: The Extraordinary Power of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on Instagram Live

However, it turns out that Ocasio-Cortez was not in the main Capitol building during the riot. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who has an office two doors down from Ocasio-Cortez, pointed out that they were actually in the Cannon building – a completely separate building, which was not stormed by rioters. 

There is video of the halls of the Cannon building during the time of Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged incident, where it’s clear that there are no rioters in the building, nor is anyone in immediate danger.  

Outlets that initially rushed to cover Ocasio-Cortez’s story are now silent in light of these revelations. Neither CNN nor the Washington Post has reported on the exposé

Popular fact-check site Snopes provided cover for Ocasio-Cortez by labeling the claim that she exaggerated the danger she was in during the Capitol riot as “mostly false,” despite admitting that she was not in the main Capitol building at the time.  

While mainstream outlets have chosen to let Ocasio-Cortez’s misleading claims slide, they’ve led to a significant online backlash. The hashtag #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett trended on Twitter, which did not sit well with the congresswoman. In the past, Ocasio-Cortez has spoken about a need to “rein in” the media and now wishes to do just that in regard to this story about herself. 

She sent an email to her followers asking them to help her “force Twitter and Facebook to take action and enforce their own rules” by finding posts that used the hashtag and flagging them for moderators. Essentially, Ocasio-Cortez wants to rally big tech to help silence those who criticize her. 




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