Shortly afterward, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) found himself fielding questions from reporters about whether the GOP leadership position of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) remained secure. In a morning tweet, Trump chided Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, for her opposition to his troop withdrawals, echoing criticism leveled at her this week by some of the president’s closest congressional allies.
The twin episodes brought into sharp relief a gaping disparity in the House: Democrats have their largest class of female lawmakers in history, while Republicans count only 13 women in their ranks.
In her floor remarks, Ocasio-Cortez repeated the reported slur — “f---ing b---h” — made by Yoho and called him “a man with no remorse.” She was joined by more than a dozen Democratic colleagues who seized the moment to rail against sexism and reject the common explanation from men that they would never disrespect a woman because they have wives and daughters.
“What we are seeing here is a resounding rejection of abuse and accosting of women,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the hour of remarks, adding that “incidents like these are happening in a pattern.”
The speeches were prompted by an incident Monday in which Yoho approached Ocasio-Cortez outside the Capitol and reportedly told her she was “disgusting” and “out of your freaking mind” in response to a view she had expressed that poverty was a root cause of crime.
According to an account by the Hill, Yoho uttered the words “f---ing b---h” once Ocasio-Cortez was out of earshot.
Yoho, during remarks on the House floor Wednesday, denied using the slur but said he wanted “to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York.”
In a statement Thursday, Yoho did not give any more ground.
“No one was accosted, bullied or attacked,” he said. “This was a brief policy discussion, plain and simple, and we have our differences.”
According to Ocasio-Cortez’s recounting of the incident, she was “minding my own business, walking up the steps” when Yoho, she said, pointed his finger at her face as he “accosted me on the steps.” Yoho later used the sexist slur in the presence of reporters after she left, Ocasio-Cortez said.
Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in the House and a liberal star who often unsettles conservatives, said she has heard similar language many times as someone who worked in bars and spent time on the streets of New York.
“All of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape in our lives,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez said she was initially inclined to let the episode pass but decided to speak out after Yoho’s remarks on the House floor Wednesday, which she said made “excuses for his behavior.” “That I could not let go,” she said.
During his remarks, Yoho recounted that he and his wife were poor early in their marriage and said that informed his passion on Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about crime and poverty.
“I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country,” he said.
Ocasio-Cortez also took issue with Yoho’s referring to his wife and two daughters when he claimed Wednesday that he was “very cognizant of my language” and denied using “offensive name-calling words.”
“What I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”
Ocasio-Cortez noted that she is two years younger than Yoho’s youngest daughter.
“My father thankfully is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter,” she said, relaying that her mother had seen reports on Yoho’s remarks Wednesday on television.
“I have to show my parents that I am their daughter, and they did not raise me to accept abuse from men,” she said.
In an email to The Washington Post earlier in the week, Yoho spokesman Brian Kaveney said the congressman “did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill [newspaper] or any name for that matter.”
“Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her policies to be: bulls---,” Kaveney said.
McCarthy, who met with Yoho on Tuesday after his clash with Ocasio-Cortez, told reporters that he found the Republican congressman’s apology sufficient, noting that Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was on the floor for Yoho’s remarks Wednesday and had accepted the apology at the time.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry to the congresswoman from New York’. . . .Yes, he made a mistake, and yes, he apologized for it,” McCarthy said.
The GOP leader said that the hour of speeches, overseen by Ocasio-Cortez, was a distraction from more-serious issues such as the negotiations over the next coronavirus legislation.
At the same news conference, when asked about the attacks on Cheney, McCarthy sought to minimize differences within his caucus and said there is “no question” that Cheney will keep her leadership position.
“In our party, we’re allowed to have differences of opinion, especially when it comes to foreign policy,” he said at a news conference. “I think Liz Cheney and the president agree 98 percent of the time. There’s nothing wrong with having a discussion about different ways of going forward. But I think the best part is that we’re united and that we don’t air these in public.”
McCarthy also played down the notion that House Republicans have a broader “woman problem,” pointing to greater numbers of women running for Congress this year than in the past.
“So, if you want to measure it based upon that, I think we’re improving,” he said. “Do we have room for improvement? A hundred percent yes.”
In a tweet hours earlier, Trump wrote: “Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars.”
His dig came as several Republicans have accused her of disloyalty because she has bucked Trump on national security issues — including pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Germany — and has embraced public health advice and officials of whom Trump has been dismissive.
Some of Cheney’s critics have called for her to be removed from her position as chair of the House Republican Conference. Trump did not advocate that himself, but he retweeted messages from some of the congresswoman’s most vocal antagonists, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who have advocated for her replacement.
Among the tweets Trump shared was one by Gaetz that said Republicans “deserve better” than Cheney. Trump also shared a tweet by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in which Paul called Cheney’s opposition to Trump’s troop withdrawals “unacceptable.” In a television interview Wednesday, Paul accused Cheney of trying to “sabotage” Trump’s foreign policy and said, “I don’t think she’s good for the country.”
Cheney, who warned in the past month of “a serious error” with “grave consequences” if troops were withdrawn from Germany, has sought to play down her differences with Trump as the rancor has become public.
Asked Thursday about Trump’s tweet, she said it was “no secret the president and I disagree on some foreign policy issues.”
But Cheney said that as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, her biggest obligation is to “provide for the defense of the nation.” She said she would continue to speak out on foreign policy issues.
Hoyer was among a handful of male lawmakers who joined Ocasio-Cortez and other female lawmakers during the hour of speeches on the floor Thursday regarding the confrontation with Yoho.
“This is an issue of who we are as a people,” Hoyer said. “Many women have spoken on this floor, but this is an issue for fathers. This is an issue for sons. This is an issue for brothers.
“I have three daughters, two granddaughters and three great-granddaughters. They must not be confronted with this kind of attack. That’s what it was.”
Others who spoke sought to make larger points about the episode.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said male lawmakers need to accept their female counterparts. “We are not going away,” she said. “There are going to be more of us here. . . . We are going to continue to speak up.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said she was speaking “on behalf of women around the world.”
“This is not just about one woman, one incident or one verbal assaulter,” she said. “This is about respect and fundamental equality. . . . You respect women because they are an equal human being to you. We will not allow sexism and misogyny and patriarchy to hold us back.”
Asked at her weekly news conference to comment on Yoho’s remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) linked the confrontation with Ocasio-Cortez to those that women have faced in Congress for decades.
Pelosi, who did not join Ocasio-Cortez on the House floor, said she has been on the receiving end of what she called “condescending” remarks by male counterparts during more than 18 years in congressional leadership.
Pelosi defended Ocasio-Cortez and told a story about a debate on abortion rights years ago when Republicans disparaged Pelosi’s knowledge of the issue.
“Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the pope,” the mother of five children recalled Thursday. “Yes.”