Clearing Up What Happened to Ocasio-Cortez During the Storming of the Capitol

During an Instagram live-stream on Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described her experiences during the storming of the Capitol on January 6. Ocasio-Cortez’s description of her evacuation led some to believe that rioters broke into her office while she was in there:

Ocasio-Cortez said that after hearing banging on her office doors, an aide told her to hide and she went into the bathroom: “And then I just start to hear these yells of ‘where is she? Where is she?’ And I just thought to myself, ‘they got inside.’ … And this was the moment where I thought everything was over. I mean I thought I was going to die. … I look through this door hinge and I see this white man in a black beanie just open the door of my personal office and come inside the personal office and yell again ‘where is she?’”

Ocasio-Cortez went on to explain that her aide called her out to let her know it was safe, and that the man looking for her was, in fact, a Capitol Police officer there to evacuate her from the building.

While some of those who went viral sharing this claim on Twitter later corrected the record, such as Croteau and Moynihan, such corrections received only a fraction of the likes and retweets that the original posts received. That the man was a police officer got lost in some of the news coverage of Ocasio-Cortez’s story as well: Social media posts left out that context, potentially misleading readers, and in some instances, news coverage of Ocasio-Cortez’s video did not clearly state that the man trying to enter Ocasio-Cortez’s office and the police officer she saw upon exiting were the same person. Newsweek’s article on the matter stated that “Ocasio-Cortez said that rioters actually entered her office” and that “members of the mob banged against the door.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were also misrepresented by some who suggested that she lied about being present in the Capitol during the attack, as her office is in the Cannon Building—an office building used by members of Congress—meaning she wasn’t in the Capitol building itself. In fact, Ocasio-Cortez explicitly explained that her office was not in the Capitol in her livestream, saying: “There’s the Capitol Hill complex, but members of Congress except for, you know, the speaker and other very, very high ranking ones don’t actually work in the building with the dome. There’s buildings like right next to the dome, and that’s where our actual offices are.”

As Ocasio-Cortez indicated, the Cannon Building is part of the larger Capitol complex and is connected to the Capitol through a tunnel. The Cannon Building was evacuated on January 6 because of fears that the riot would overtake it.

It’s also worth noting that Ocasio-Cortez described the Capitol police officer who came into her office as looking at her with “a tremendous amount of rage and hostility.” She said that after the fact her legislative director agreed with her that he wasn’t sure if the officer “was there to help us or hurt us.” Her claims on the matter are unverified, with no evidence to suggest that the officer who evacuated her was aligned with the rioters.

While Ocasio-Cortez described fearing that those banging on her door looking for her were rioters, she explained in the same video that such was not actually the case. She also explained that she was not in the Capitol building. 

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