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Westchester HS Grad Ocasio-Cortez Bans Press From Town Hall Forum

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the left, celebrates her June Democratic Party primary upset win over U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley. Fans of TV's "Sex And The City" might recognize the woman on the right: Cynthia Nixon, a gubernatorial candidate.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the left, celebrates her June Democratic Party primary upset win over U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley. Fans of TV's "Sex And The City" might recognize the woman on the right: Cynthia Nixon, a gubernatorial candidate. Photo Credit: Twitter @CynthiaNixon

Does the young Democratic Socialist upstart, upsetter from Westchester and the Bronx support a Free Press, or not?

The 28-year-old Congressional candidate banned the news media from a Town Hall meeting after news reporters "mobbed her" during an earlier New York event, according to this report in the Queens Chronicle.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday, Aug. 13 that stops on her listening tour throughout the district, like the one held a day earlier in Corona, are “intended for lively, compassionate discourse with a diversity of viewpoints.”

The Democratic candidate and dozens of area residents who attended the event “talked about race, immigration, healthcare, disability rights and housing,” the graduate of Yorktown High School said.

But unless you were in the room on Sunday, Aug. 12 you won’t know what specific community problems were mentioned or how Ocasio-Cortez planned to address them once she is sworn in, the Chronicle reported. That’s because her campaign banned members of the media from attending the event, which was otherwise open to the public.

In the seven weeks since she pulled off one of the most remarkable upsets in recent American political history — defeating longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) by 15 points in June’s New York Democratic primary — Ocasio-Cortez has become a political juggernaut, frequently appearing at political fundraisers from Coast to Coast, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as well as on many national network TV news programs, as reported here by Daily Voice.

She has traveled the country from California to Kansas and Hawaii  to campaign — sometimes with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — stumping for fellow progressive primary candidates.

But when Ocasio-Cortez returned to her own Congressional District for a Bronx community meeting with prominent healthcare activist Ady Barkan last week, her campaign manager, Vigie Ramos Rios, later told the Chronicle, she was mobbed by reporters.

According to Ramos Rios and campaign spokesman Corbin Trent, that unwanted attention led to a press ban both for last week’s listening tour stop in the Bronx as well as Sunday’s in Corona, Queens.

“We wanted to help create a space where community members felt comfortable and open to express themselves without the distraction of cameras and press. These were the first set of events where the press has been excluded,” Trent told the Chronicle in this report. “This is an outlier and will not be the norm. We’re still adjusting our logistics to fit Alexandria’s national profile.”

The 28-year-old is expected to win the Nov. 6 general election in her heavily Democratic district, making her the youngest-ever female member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Asked if it was hypocritical for Ocasio-Cortez to ban the press from an in-district community meeting after weeks of interviews with prominent publications and rallying with candidates in other states, Trent said the campaign is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with area media outlets, according to the Queens Chronicle.

“After our primary victory, the campaign had what we saw as a unique and limited opportunity for Alexandria to use her elevated platform to speak about issues affecting our district to the national media, and to campaign for other progressive candidates around the country,” he said. “By working to get other progressive candidates elected, Alexandria will be securing more national voting power for the people of Queens and the Bronx.”

Sunday’s event, which was closed to news media, was delayed one day until Ocasio-Cortez returned from campaigning in Hawaii.

At some point during the Town Hall meeting, according to the social media feeds of attendees, Ocasio-Cortez got up and addressed the audience: “We’ve been polite with racist people for far too long,” she said according to the Twitter feed of Nick Gulotta, an aide to Mayor de Blasio who was in attendance. “There’s a cultural idea that talking about race is divisive . . . but I don’t think it’s divisive unless you’re a racist.”

Ocasio-Cortez also discussed the issue on Twitter on Monday, Aug. 13:  “At yesterday’s town hall, someone asked how I, as just a human, am dealing with the hate, subconscious bias and criticism. . . . I’ve been told my whole life I’m not up to snuff. Folks always doubt my worthiness until I get it done.”

Social media users in attendance said other topics included affordable housing, charter schools and building a local soccer stadium.

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