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'Do you not have a daughter? Do you not have a mother?': Pelosi condemns sexism in Congress and US society in defence of AOC

A record 36 freshman congresswomen were sworn into office last year, 35 of whom are Democrats

Griffin Connolly
Thursday 23 July 2020 19:15 BST
AOC responds to non-apology from Congressman who verbally attacked her

Speaker Nancy Pelosi decried the pervasive sexism that she said lingers in the halls of Congress and US society more broadly, as lawmakers continued on Thursday to admonish GOP Congressman Ted Yoho for the rude manner in which he confronted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Capitol steps this week.

Ms Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected female official in US history who has led the House Democratic caucus for the better part of two decades, said she could relate to Ms Ocasio-Cortez's treatment by Mr Yoho, who allegedly called her "disgusting" and a "f***ing bitch" after a heated exchange on Tuesday that he initiated between the two.

"There's no limit to the disrespect or the lack of acknowledgement of the strength of women," Ms Pelosi told reporters on Thursday when asked about the incident. "Nothing is more wholesome for our government, for our politics, for our country, than the increased participation of women. And women will be treated with respect."

A record 36 freshman congresswomen were sworn into office last year, 35 of whom are Democrats. (One of those 35, ex-Congresswoman Katie Hill of California, left office last fall amid a sexual misconduct controversy.)

Despite their growing numbers in positions of power, women still do not routinely command the same respect as men — neither in the halls of Congress nor in US society more broadly, Ms Pelosi said.

"What's so funny is, you'd say to them, 'Do you not have a daughter? Do you not have a mother? Do you not have a sister? Do you not have a wife? What makes you think that you can be so' — and this is the word I use for them — 'condescending, in addition to being disrespectful?'" Ms Pelosi said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez and several of her woman colleagues spoke on the House floor on Thursday condemning Mr Yoho's aggressive behaviour and what they viewed as his half-hearted apology at the podium on Wednesday.

"The fact that the behaviour of one of the members is such that the whole 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," the speaker said.

"It's a manifestation of attitudes in our society, really. I can tell you that firsthand, they've called me names for at least ... 18 years of leadership," Ms Pelosi said of her political adversaries.

Mr Yoho, who is retiring at the end of his current term after eight years of mostly quiet, behind-the-scenes work in Congress, issued a partial apology for "the abrupt manner of the conversation" he had with Ms Ocasio-Cortez on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, where a reporter allegedly heard him call her a "f***ing bitch" after the two parted ways.

Mr Yoho did not, however, apologise for that particular comment, however, claiming he did not say it to Ms Ocasio-Cortez during their brief confrontation, which he initiated.

"The offensive name-calling — words attributed to me by the press — were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologise for their misunderstanding," he said in a speech on the House floor on Wednesday.

"It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful. Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of the language I use," Mr Yoho said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez dismissed Mr Yoho's speech as hollow, and indicative of his disinterest in issuing an actual apology.

"Yesterday. Representative Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behaviour. 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, to see that excuse," she said, "and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance."

Mr Ocasio-Cortez said she does not need to hear Mr Yoho issue a more sincere-sounding apology because she does not believe he has the desire to utter one.

"Clearly, he does not want to," she said. "Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not. And I will not stay up late at night, waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women [f***ing bitches], and using abusive language towards women."

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