“Think about the fact that every mainstream, leading Democratic contender,” Trump Jr. said, “is taking the advice of a freshman congresswoman who three weeks ago didn’t know the three branches of government. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s pretty scary.”
The “three branches of government” thing stems from a live-streamed video of Ocasio-Cortez in which she briefly stumbled over the composition of the U.S. government. If you’re not familiar with the story, you’re perhaps unfamiliar with sites like the Daily Wire, where incidents like that one are fodder for a steady stream of pro-conservative articles.
After Trump Jr. offered his assessment of Ocasio-Cortez, the crowd lit up. A brief chant erupted: “AOC sucks! AOC sucks!”
How did we get here? It’s remarkably straightforward.
A Post Fact Checker poll conducted in December found that Fox News was consistently one of the key sources of political news for Republicans.
Fox News covers Ocasio-Cortez far more heavily than other cable news networks. On average so far this year, Fox News has mentioned her in 0.6 percent of every 15-second segment it has aired — four times as much as MSNBC and five times as often as CNN.
Certain conservative social media accounts, such as the Daily Wire or Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, talk about the New York congresswoman constantly. Compare that to the liberal site Think Progress or to The Washington Post, which obviously offers a broader range of news coverage than just politics.
The result? As a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday demonstrated, Ocasio-Cortez is viewed strongly negatively by Republicans. But she’s also much better known by Republicans, with 23 percent of Republicans saying they don’t know enough about her to have an opinion. Among Democrats, 44 percent say they have no opinion, while those who do see her much more positively.
Fox News in particular has an unparalleled ability to speak to the base of the Republican Party. While its defenders will often declare that it’s simply counteracting liberal bias in the rest of the media, there’s no single outlet that captures a similar level of attention from Democrats. What Fox News talks about — and how it talks about it — drives much of the conversation among Republicans.
What has Fox said about Ocasio-Cortez?
- Sean Hannity, on March 11: “Breaking tonight: The person that’s really leading the Democratic Party, Ocasio-Cortez.”
- Hannity, March 4: “Just like socialist comrade Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rhetoric doesn’t match her action. The New York Post says Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez racks up huge transportation expenses instead of taking the subway. . . . Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to abolish fossil fuels while she takes private rides.”
- Tucker Carlson, March 11: “Pioneer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she’s excited. We should be thrilled we’re about to lose our jobs.”
- “Outnumbered,” March 8: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is, you know, one of the main drivers of this push for the government to take people’s liberty and freedom, but she wants to tap into the private sector and raise money.”
- Laura Ingraham, March 1. “Ocasio-Cortez has been in Congress for two months and has 3.3 million followers. The new socialists may be inexperienced, but they’re bold, energetic and determined to shake up their establishment.”
- Carlson, March 15. “Ocasio-Cortez blamed the National Rifle Association somehow for the attack [in New Zealand]. The NRA doesn’t even exist in New Zealand. . . . Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t care. Maybe she doesn’t even know. What she does know is that the NRA is the single most effective guardian of the Second Amendment."
- “Fox and Friends,” March 20. “Unfortunately, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is probably the face of the Democratic Party.”
Just a sample from this month.
Ocasio-Cortez is polarizing and vocal. So Fox News and conservatives make her the “face of the Democratic Party” and focus their rhetoric on her. As a result, Republicans are more likely to know who she is. And what they know, they don’t like.
So Trump Jr. can lift a line from the conservative meme-mill disparaging a freshman representative from New York and throw it out to the crowd at a Michigan Trump rally and not get blank stares.
Instead, predictably, he gets, “AOC sucks.”