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'Fox & Friends' host says Ocasio-Cortez's staff salary plans 'socialism and communism on display'
"Fox & Friends" weekend co-host Pete Hegseth said Sunday that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) move to cap higher-level staff incomes in order to pay every member of her staff an annual salary of at least $52,000 was an example of communism and socialism.
"It's actually socialism and communism on display," Hegseth said on weekend version of the popular Fox News program.
Hegseth made the comments as a group of co-hosts discussed Ocasio-Cortez's decision to pay what she said was a "living wage" to the staffers in her office.
"It's likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Friday. "We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it's worth every dime to pay a living wage."
Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez's communications director, told Roll Call that salaries for the congresswoman's office would top out at $80,000 due to the policy. The median wage for top congressional staffers is $154,634, according to a Legistorm analysis reported by USA Today last year of congressional chiefs of staffs.
Ocasio-Cortez announced in December that she would also pay her interns at least $15 an hour.
Hegseth criticized the decision while noting that "every Capitol Hill office has a limited amount of money to pay their staff."
"So you have to decide how to allocate it. She said everyone in my office will pay a living wage," Hegseth said, adding that her policies on salaries would lead her chief of staff to earn a salary below the "actual market rate."
Fox News's Katie Pavlich, who is also an opinion contributor for The Hill, responded by saying that she had no problem with Ocasio-Cortez's decision.
"Let's not forget where that money comes from. They are not making that money in her office," she added. "They're not running a business where they're making a profit and money is coming in with revenue. That money comes from taxpayers, and given to her office, and she can move it around."
"If it was market-based maybe she could pay entry level staffers $52,000 a year given the market value of those positions in the private sector."
Hegseth closed the segment by wondering if Ocasio-Cortez would share some of her own salary with her staff.
"Will you share some of that money, Miss Congresswoman, with the rest of your staff who is not making as much as you?" he asked.
Ocasio-Cortez's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez expanded on her salary commitment on Saturday, saying that "a lot of people commenting don't know how Congressional salaries work."
"Each member is given a set amount that they disburse. GOP has refused to increase budgets in years to give hard-working staff a raise, which means people helping to run the country are getting paid $30k/year," she wrote on Twitter, adding that "low pay" is "a big reason why money in politics is a problem."
Trent told Roll Call last week that Ocasio-Cortez's staff would likely include 18 members, the congressional limit.