Nearly a month after the Jan. 6. attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recalled being terrified for her life during the invasion last month in an Instagram Live session on Feb. 1.
During the retelling of her traumatic experience, Ocasio-Cortez said she was in her office around the time the clashes took place and heard a loud, "violent" banging on her office door. She recalled hiding behind a bathroom door in her office, fearing for her life, as the person at the door shouted, "Where is she?"
Ocasio-Cortez said she did not know it at the time but the person asking for her whereabouts was actually a Capitol police officer. She said she evacuated herself with a staffer to another building, where she took refuge in a colleague's office. The Congresswoman also noted how her past experiences with trauma, particularly surviving sexual assault, had compounded her fear during and after the Capitol riots.
Critics Claim AOC Was Not Inside the Capitol Building During the Riots
Less than 48 hours after the Congresswoman's remarks, right-wing social media users tried to push claims that Ocasio-Cortez was not even inside the federal building and exaggerated her experience during the breach.
Some social media users quoted a tweet shared by Breaking911 that read, "AOC was not in the U.S. Capitol building during her 'near death' experience. She claims to have been in her office, which is located in the Cannon Building. Rioters did not breach the Cannon Building."
Meanwhile, others echoed similar assertions made by South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace, whose office is "two doors way" claimed that insurrectionists did not storm their hallway during the Capitol riots.
Conspiracy theorist Candace Owens also chimed in, piling on claims that Ocasio-Cortez had faked her "own attempted murder" after having previously "staged a photoshoot" to spread lies about immigrant children in cages.
Online trolls took it a step further by drawing comparisons between Ocasio-Cortez and Jussie Smollett, an actor accused of staging a racist, homophobic attack himself in Jan 2019, causing the hashtags #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett #AOCSmollett and #AOCLied to trend on Twitter.
As pointed out by fact-checking website Snopes, even though social media users tried to discredit Ocasio-Cortez's story by claiming she was not actually inside the main Capitol building where the House and Senate chambers are located at the time of the riots, there is sufficient evidence to support her claim.
Firstly, Ocasio-Cortez never claimed she was inside the main Capitol building. She said she was in her office, which resides in one of the many buildings inside the Capitol complex. These buildings are connected to each other via a series of tunnels known as the Capitol Subway System, which allows members of Congress to travel underground from their offices to their respective chambers.
Secondly, Ocasio-Cortez's building, Cannon House, which is located across the street from the Capitol building was one of the buildings that was evacuated during the riots, as tweeted by CNN's Jake Tapper, who was reporting events as they unfolded on the platform.
Mace, herself said in a now-deleted post that her office was evacuated after protesters stormed the Capitol building.
Thirdly, rioters who breached the Capitol did voice their desires to execute lawmakers and hours into the attack, one rioter even took to social media to write, "assassinate AOC," as previously reported. This suggests that there was imminent physical danger to Ocasio-Cortez's life during the attack. The House Trial Brief for Trump's Senate impeachment trial also noted that it was not just those inside the main Capitol building who were in danger during the breach.
Mace also told reporters at the time that she barricaded herself in her office during the invasion, fearing that Trump supporters would target her after she voted to certify the electoral votes in favor of President Joe Biden, as pointed out by Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to the allegations by calling it a "manipulative take" that intentionally failed to tell the whole story. She acknowledged that she was not in the Capitol dome during her terrifying encounter, but was in her office. She also reminded her critics that pro-Trump supporters had also targeted members of congress' offices and that authorities had discovered multiple pipe bombs planted blocks away from the dome.