The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Conservatives can’t stop obsessing over Ocasio-Cortez. Their latest target: her boyfriend.

Fox News, Breitbart and others are wondering why Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s partner has a email address.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks in Washington on Jan. 30. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

First, it was her clothing. Then her dancing. Not to mention her credit score, her apartment, her hometown. Maybe it was only a matter of time before conservatives went after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s love life.

On Friday — the day after Valentine’s Day, as some commenters dutifully noted — an accusation that the New York Democrat was employing her boyfriend as a member of her staff made its way around the Twitter pages of various conservative media magoos. Gleeful outrage ensued.

“While you were having a nice Valentine’s Day, @AOC decided to put her boyfriend on staff — drawing a salary on the taxpayer’s dime,” wrote Twitter user Luke Thompson in one viral post. “Nice to see her adapting to the swamp so quickly.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has become the latest target of an online smear campaign, which is harnessing common tactics used to attack women. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

“.@AOC is having a tough week,” wrote Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA.

Then, from Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign: “Her jobs for everyone starts with her boyfriend. Pure socialism, government chooses the winners and losers.”

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Fox News picked up on this chatter and published a story that asserted Ocasio-Cortez “faces questions” about her boyfriend. Similar stories in Breitbart and the Daily Caller followed.

The fast-growing conspiracy seems to have originated from a few would-be sleuths who found her boyfriend’s name, Riley Roberts, listed in online House directories with a “” email address. Thus, he must be on her staff.

Well, they’re partly correct. Roberts does have a House email address, but, as a spokesperson for the chamber’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer explained, that does not mean he’s an employee.

“From time to time, at the request of members, spouses and partners are provided House email accounts for the purposes of viewing the member’s calendar,” the spokesperson said.

On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez made the same point — that allowing partners access to members’ schedules through House email accounts is commonplace and is not against any government rules — telling Thompson to “check your facts before you tweet nonsense.”

Her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, told The Post that, “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s partner, Mr. Roberts, has no official position, paid or otherwise, with her congressional office. Members of Congress have very tightly scheduled calendars that their family members and partners are allowed to access to make personal plans around official schedules.”

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The attacks were the latest in a litany of ginned-up or exaggerated controversies that have been unrelenting since she began making political waves.

Merely one such example: In July 2018, John Cardillo, host of a Newsmax show, tweeted a photo of Ocasio-Cortez’s childhood home in Westchester County, N.Y. He wrote, “This is the Yorktown Heights (very nice area) home @Ocasio2018 grew up in” and added, erroneously, that she then went to Brown University, an Ivy League school.

Then-candidate Ocasio-Cortez responded forcefully, writing, “Hey John, 1. I didn’t go to Brown or the Ivy League. I went to BU. Try Google. 2. It is nice. Growing up, it was a good town for working people. My mom scrubbed toilets so I could live here & I grew up seeing how the Zip code one is born in determines much of their opportunity.”

In a January interview, responding to a phony “nude selfie” that the Daily Caller promoted (before walking back its headline), Ocasio-Cortez told The Post that her right wing detractors were “out of all their artillery.”

“The nude is supposed to be like the bazooka. You know, like, ‘We’re going to take her down,’" she said, possibly anticipating future provocations. “Dude, you’re all out of bullets, you’re all out of bombs, you’re all out of all this stuff. What have you got left?”