Michelle Caruso-Cabrera: AOC’s challenger who used to live in Trump hotel and called for privatising Medicare and Social Security

The former CNBC host moved into New York City’s 14th district last year

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 28 April 2020 21:19 BST
AOC slams $2 trillion coronavirus bailout for corporations

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ​— the outspoken progressive congresswoman from New York City — has more than a dozen challengers gunning for her seat, including a Republican-turned-Democrat who’d formerly shacked up at a Trump property.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 53, a former CNBC host, is challenging Ms Ocasio-Cortez, and has spent much of her campaign trying to undermine the narrative surrounding the freshman representative’s upbringing.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx and moved to nearby Westchester County when she was five years old. After college, Ms Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx, where she worked as a bartender before launching her historic insurgent primary campaign against former US Rep Joe Crowley.

Ms Caruso-Cabrera has tried to paint Ms Ocasio-Cortez as a carpet-bagger and a fraud, suggesting the story of her upbringing is a fabrication. She has accused Ms Ocasio-Cortez of sheltering in a luxury Washington, D.C. apartment and ignoring her constituents at a time when New York City has become the epicentre for the US coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking with Business Insider, Ms Caruso-Cabrera said the incumbent congresswoman was “out of touch” with her constituents and “doesn’t know what it takes to put food on the table and to put a roof over the head of a family”.

“She’s from Westchester, don’t forget. She didn’t grow up in the Bronx like she claims,” Ms Caruso-Cabrera said. “And everyone in the Bronx knows it.”

Ms Caruso-Cabrera — who formerly described herself as a “Whole Foods Republican” — is challenging Ms Ocasio-Cortez from the right as a business-friendly centrist.

Despite taking exception to Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s history with the district, Ms Caruso-Cabrera only moved into New York’s 14th District last year, and previously lived in Manhattan.

While she and her husband were living in Manhattan, Ms Caruso-Cabrera was living in Trump International Hotel and Tower on Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

According to StreetEasy, the apartment rented for nearly $15,000 a month in 2011. Other apartments in the building were offered between $9,000 and $13,000.

Ms Caruso-Cabrera said she entered the race after Ms Ocasio-Cortez opposed the city’s deal with Amazon to put a second headquarters in Queens.

The Intercept reported that the US Chamber of Commerce — which is a business lobbying group that generally backs Republicans — is planning to endorse Ms Caruso-Cabrera, and more than four dozen Wall Street executives, including prominent leaders at Goldman Sachs and other private equity concerns, had donated to her campaign.

During her interview with Business Insider, Ms Caruso-Cabrera — who formerly called Medicare and Social Security “the country’s biggest pyramid schemes” and suggested in a book they should both be privatised — insisted she no longer had outward disdain for social safety net programmes.

“That book is quite old, and would I have written that book differently? Yes, I would have,” she said. “What I would tell you is that I absolutely believe in preserving Social Security and Medicare, especially for the poor and the elderly.”

In addition to calling for the privatisation of Medicare and Social Security, Ms Caruso-Cabrera’s book also included a forward by President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Larry Kudlow, an entire chapter dedicated to praising the massive corporate tax cuts enacted under the administration of US President Ronald Reagan, and a section claiming that the US cracking down on ultra-wealthy people making use of tax havens was anti-democratic.

“Freedom and democracy are best secured when banking secrecy and tax havens exist,” Ms Caruso-Cabrera wrote.

Though Ms Caruso-Cabrera has tried to distance herself from the book, she was promoting it as recently as October 2018.

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