Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is angry at her critics for their latest dig against her, claiming that she changed her accent while addressing a predominantly black audience. The freshman lawmaker had been criticized “after seeming to develop a new accent,” as Fox News put it. Her critics didn’t quite put it so diplomatically. “In case you’re wondering, this is what blackface sounds like,” one wrote on Twitter, for example.
The speech in question took place at the annual convention of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. During the speech she defended her working-class roots and blasted those who use her background to minimize her political stature. “I’m proud to be a bartender,” she said. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with working retail, folding clothes for other people to buy. There is nothing wrong with preparing the food that your neighbors will eat.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s first response was defiant, characterizing the criticism as typical of those who have no idea what it is like to grow up in a multicultural background. “Folks talking about my voice can step right off,” she wrote on Twitter. “Any kid who grew up in a distinct linguistic culture & had to learn to navigate class enviros at school/work knows what’s up.”
In a subsequent tweet though the New York lawmaker called the criticism “hurtful” and seemingly part of a strategy to turn every part of her life against her. “As much as the right wants to distort & deflect, I am from the Bronx. I act & talk like it, *especially* when I’m fired up and especially when I’m home,” she wrote. “It is so hurtful to see how every aspect of my life is weaponized against me, yet somehow asserted as false at the same time.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s words didn’t quiet her critics though who doubled down on their allegations against the freshman lawmaker, with some comparing her to Hillary Clinton. Conservatives have long accused Clinton of changing her accent on the campaign trail depending on her audience. The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra, for example, said Ocasio-Cortez’s claims were “a lie” and posted video of other speeches to make his point. Another critic called it “verbal blackface.” And the Fox News contributor who went viral for wearing a bulletproof vest at the border also jumped on the bandwagon
Support our journalism
Help us continue covering the news and issues important to you—and get ad-free podcasts and bonus segments, members-only content, and other great benefits.Join Slate Plus