By Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo.
Perhaps more than any of her senior congressional colleagues, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old freshman congresswoman from the Bronx, has dominated the left’s post-primary, pre-2020 political landscape in a once-unfathomable, Obama-esque dervish. New Yorker editor in chief David Remnick interviewed her several days ago. Vogue gave her an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot in the fall. (Vanity Fair has featured her on a cover as well.) The virality of her tweets rivals those of the president. When Ocasio-Cortez arrived in the hallway of Capitol Hill for Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony last week, she received a celebrity’s welcome from the spectators who were milling about. At one point when Cohen was speaking during the hearing, the TV cameras shifted off of him and onto Ocasio-Cortez, as she got up to whisper something to another House member. As Margaret Sullivan posited in a Washington Post headline on Monday, “The ‘ravenous hysteria’ over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just reached a new level of crazy.”
One of A.O.C.’s hometown news organizations, however, has gone to war with the budding representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District. “Where in the world does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez live?” the New York Post asked in an extensive February 23 exposé that cast doubt on the congresswoman’s residence in the Parkchester neighborhood, where she is registered to vote, according to the Post. “She may be America’s most famous freshman congresswoman, but in New York, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a virtual ghost,” claimed the article, which prompted a pair of sneering follow-ups (“Ocasio-Cortez covers tracks in address debacle”; “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she moved out of Bronx home where no one ever saw her”), and a takedown from the Post’s red-blooded editorial board: “A.O.C.’s self-inflicted wound—followed by another victim act.”
This week, the Post’s A.O.C. crusade continued with a blistering “EXCLUSIVE REPORT” and cover story blasting the architect of the Green New Deal for her use of an automobile: “ECO TRIP; Gas-guzzling car rides expose A.O.C.’s green hypocrisy.” This time, Ocasio-Cortez had had enough. “The Post put the fact that I get into cars (while proposing a plan to invest in better car technology) on their front page,” she tweeted. “Pack it up folks, the Pulitzer’s been decided. No one can rival this kind of hard-hitting journalism.” (Representatives for the Post and Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment.)
The New York Post takes glee in skewering progressives, especially when it comes to what the tabloid sees as their environmental sanctimony. The Post went after mayor Bill de Blasio for taking an S.U.V. to the gym, and it has delighted in taking shots at Al Gore’s use of a private jet. Similarly, the Anthony Weiner sexting scandals generated a prodigious collection of pun-laden tabloid covers, as did the blistering front-page circus that was Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
In this sense, Ocasio-Cortez is just the latest recipient of the Post’s unforgiving hijinks. But even insiders acknowledge that the A.O.C. drumbeat has seemed “fairly relentless,” as one source put it. “The theory is that it is part of the new marching orders from the top.”
The Post, as I’ve reported, recently reorganized its leadership ranks, including putting a new editor in charge of digital content, replacing the team that had been running digital for the past several years. Additionally, Trump-loving former Post editor in chief Col Allan has returned to the tabloid in a consulting capacity.
However, the real driving force behind the Ocasio-Cortez smorgasbord is probably a lot more obvious. “A.O.C. is the new Trump bump,” a second Post source told me, noting that coverage of her is consistently among the top-performing stories on nypost.com. In the past six days alone, the Web site has published 24 A.O.C. articles about everything from her ties to Bernie Sanders, to a former Greenpeace president calling her a “pompous little twit,” to a joke she made, apparently in reference to the Post, about using paper: “I need to admit something to you all. Frankly, I don’t know how my environmental reputation can recover.”
“At the end of the day, it’s tabloid nature,” the second Post source said. “It’s an easy shot at a liberal, but it’s also an easy shot at a new political darling.” And when Ocasio-Cortez punches back, the source continued, “it just adds more fuel to the fire, and you have to keep going.” A third Post veteran agreed with that assessment: “When someone reacts like that to Post coverage and they hit a nerve, the Post doubles down. That said, she’s going to be a great target for the Post for a long time to come.”
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