The media's lionization of AOC proves sizzle always valued over steak

The media's lionization of AOC proves sizzle always valued over steak

“You're now in your second term in the House, you have 12 million Twitter followers, 9 million Instagram followers, and they all know you by three letters: AOC. So, what's it like to be AOC?" CNN chief political correspondent Dana BashDana BashThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Manchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 MORE asked of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSchumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Toomey takes aim at Schumer's spending windfall for NYC public housing The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) in a recent interview. 

"When I was your age, I always tried to fit into the world as it is, not trying to change it. Where do you get that confidence?" Bash asked later in a documentary that couldn't have been written any better by AOC's PR team. 



CNN promoted the special with a tweet quoting AOC saying, "I've decided that being me is more important than being anything else."


Lest anyone think CNN is out on an island here in terms of the way Ocasio-Cortez is treated by the press, here are a few sample headlines — including Vanity Fair magazine, which almost certainly has never provided an exclamation mark in any feature of a female GOP member of Congress. 






Ah, yes ... "teaming up" with MSNBC. It’s always a good look for a news organization to “team up” with politicians to push a narrative, an agenda. 


It's clear that, at least in many media circles, Ocasio-Cortez is the “phenom” that Time magazine says she is. But after getting past the sizzle, what's the steak? Where’s the substance? In other words, how has AOC performed as a lawmaker?  

Enter the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking, a project partnership between Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia, which shows that, going into this summer, AOC had introduced 21 bills defined by the group as “substantive." Of those 21 bills, none received floor votes and, therefore, not one became actual law.  

“She introduced a lot of bills, but she was not successful at having them receive any sort of action in committee or beyond committee, and if they can’t get through committee, they cannot pass the House,” Alan Wiseman, Vanderbilt political scientist and co-director of the center, told the New York Post. 

In terms of AOC's performance compared to other congressional Democrats, she ranks 230th out of 240. And compared to 18 other congressional Democrats from New York state, she ranked last.  

No matter: The 31-year-old will continue to be the subject of TV documentaries and fawning profiles because she has lots of Twitter and Instagram followers. Because she's snarky and gets personal on social media — ironically, mirroring Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE

One would think the media would challenge and call out Ocasio-Cortez more often, because it's not like there isn't any material to work with. Just this week, as a small but notable example of how much the congresswoman values performance art, the leader of “the squad” was on the steps of the Capitol with some young Democrats and was maskless at the time. Nothing wrong with that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has only issued indoor recommendations, not outdoor ones, when it comes to pandemic face coverings. 

But then a funny thing happened: When it was time for photos, AOC put on a mask. And when the photos were over, the mask was taken back off. 



Almost all major news organizations looked the other way despite the hypocrisy going viral on Twitter. Would the same courtesy of omission be extended to any Republican member of Congress? (It’s a rhetorical question.) 

And then there's Ocasio-Cortez’s attack on the media institution itself. 

"There’s absolutely a commission that’s being discussed but it seems to be more investigating in style rather than truth and reconciliation,” she said in an Instagram video post earlier this year regarding a potential government effort to "rein in our media environment," which doesn't sound Orwellian at all. 

“I do think that several members of Congress in some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is part of what happened here,” AOC goes on. “We’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.”


"Rein in our media environment” — what could possibly go wrong, when the government is deciding what is "truth" and what is not. How's that going in China, North Korea and Iran? 

And who better than AOC to decide what is and what is not truth? Politifact keeps a running scoreboard of individual fact-checks. Here's how she stacks up on 10 fact-checks:

- Number of fact-checks where her claim was deemed mostly true: 2 (20 percent) 

- Half-true: 2 (20 percent) 

- False: 5 (50 percent) 

- Pants-on-fire false: 1 (10 percent)  

Yep. There's your professor of "media literacy." 

"I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right," Ocasio-Cortez once famously told “60 Minutes.” In other words, according to her, as long as a person believes they're morally right, that supersedes being factually correct.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got a national primetime special on CNN on Monday. She wasn't challenged in any capacity. She likely gained many more Twitter and Instagram followers as a result.  

And, for far too many in media, that's really all that matters, right?  

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.