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Ocasio-Cortez didn’t lie about location during Capitol riot

February 4, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, falsely claimed she faced rioters in the main Capitol building during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Ocasio-Cortez never claimed she was in the main Capitol building, nor did she claim she was face-to-face with a mob of violent rioters. In an Instagram Live video about the riots, she explained that she was in her office in a neighboring building on the Capitol complex, where she experienced a frightening encounter with a Capitol police officer who she said didn’t announce himself.

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THE FACTS: Days after Ocasio-Cortez opened up about the Capitol attack and her past sexual assault in an Instagram Live video on Feb. 2, viral social media posts are falsely accusing her of lying about the details.

“Sooo is Twitter going to fact-check AOC’s fake story about imaginary mobs in her hallway?” read one Facebook post viewed more than 66,000 times on Thursday. “Or do they only do that to conservatives…”

“AOC wasn’t even in the Capitol Building during her ‘near-death’ experience,” read another Facebook post viewed more than 100,000 times. “One big lie. #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett.”

The hashtag #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett, which appeared in multiple social media posts this week and was trending nationwide on Twitter Wednesday night, appeared to liken the congresswoman to former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself in 2019.

But Ocasio-Cortez never claimed she was in the main domed Capitol building during the melee. In fact, in her video explaining her experience of the insurrection, she made a point to clarify that she was in her congressional office in a different building nearby.

“For you all to know, there’s the Capitol Hill complex,” she told her Instagram followers. “But members of Congress, except for, you know, the speaker and other very, very high ranking ones, don’t actually work in a building with the dome. There’s buildings like right next to the dome, and that’s where our actual offices are.”

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Ocasio-Cortez’s office is across the street from the main Capitol building, in the Cannon building, which AP reporters on the scene confirmed was evacuated during the riots.

The Cannon building is also connected to the Capitol building by a series of tunnels, which allow members of Congress to travel between buildings underground.

Those tunnels were mentioned in some earlier communications between militia members charged in the insurrection, suggesting rioters planned to use them to attack members of Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez also never claimed she encountered rioters personally, despite false posts claiming she did.

In her hour-and-a-half long video, she talked about the rising tension and sense of danger she felt in the days leading up to the attack, as protesters gathered around the Capitol and she began receiving warnings that violence was expected on Jan. 6.

Ocasio-Cortez then went on to describe the events of the afternoon itself. She said she was in her office when she heard repeated bangs on the door, like someone was trying to get in. Her legislative director told her to hide, and she went into the bathroom. She then heard a male voice yelling, “Where is she?”

She came out after her legislative director told her to, and a Capitol police officer was in the office. He didn’t announce himself, and he appeared angry. She said the officer told them to go to another building, but didn’t say specifically where or escort them, leaving her feeling unsafe.

Ocasio-Cortez then described evacuating to a different building, where she took shelter in a colleague’s office. She said as she traveled there, she could hear rioters “yelling and screaming” outside as they tried to break into that building.

Some of the viral posts accusing Ocasio-Cortez of lying referred to a now-corrected Newsweek article that originally included the false claim that she spoke of rioters breaking into her office.

“A previous version of this story stated that Ocasio-Cortez’s office was entered by rioters,” reads Newsweek’s correction on the story. “Ocasio-Cortez’s office was actually entered by a Capitol police officer that did not identify himself. Newsweek regrets the error.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536