Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday night launched a blatantly false attack on Republican consultant Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ocasio-Cortez claimed in a viral tweet that Holmes “helps run a multimillion dollar operation to have bot accounts manipulate online discourse.” There is no evidence to support that claim, which the congresswoman deleted after criticism online.
Ocasio-Cortez cited a tweet from Andrew Perez, a reporter at research nonprofit MapLight, as evidence in support of her accusation — but Perez’s tweet provided no such evidence.
Perez noted Job Creators Network, a business advocacy group critical of Ocasio-Cortez, had in the past hired two political consulting firms, Berman & Co and Cavalry LLC. Perez noted Holmes founded Cavalry and described the other firm, Berman & Co., as an “astroturf firm” — referring to the practice of inflating support for (or opposition to) a cause.
Perez made no reference to online bots and did not accuse Holmes’s firm of astroturf campaigns — he simply noted who Job Creators Network had worked with in the past. Ocasio-Cortez pounced on Perez’s tweet as proof of something nefarious: manipulation of public discourse, she alleged.
“If you notice a lot more trolls on social media re: politics, it’s [because] Mitch McConnell’s former Chief of Staff helps run a multimillion dollar operation to have bot accounts manipulate online discourse,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, where she has more than 3.2 million followers. “Because we all know how hard they work to make the world a better place.”
“Every journalist in America should ask @AOC what she’s talking about here. This was a voter registration project. She’s easily the most reckless politician in America,” Holmes replied on Twitter.
Though Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet was quickly debunked in political circles, it still racked up more than 10,000 retweets by the time she deleted it later Friday night.
“I’m deleting a tweet about astroturfing [because] I want to make sure details are solid,” she wrote in an update.
Ocasio-Cortez faced scrutiny in the past over her propensity for spreading misinformation, particularly online.
Ocasio-Cortez apologized in January after seemingly threatening to subpoena President Donald Trump’s oldest son, Don Jr., because he mocked her online. In the same interview she asserted it’s more important to be “morally right” than factually accurate. The day after the interview aired, she melted down online over a fact-check.
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