Ocasio-Cortez, ex-CNBC host trade jabs in testy primary debate: 'AOC, you're always MIA'

A House Democratic primary debate between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and former CNBC host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera became heated Monday when Caruso-Cabrera confronted the incumbent over what she described as misplaced priorities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The challenger specifically took issue with Ocasio-Cortez's decision to remain in Washington D.C. at "the height of the crisis."

"You stayed away in your apartment. AOC, you're always MIA," said Caruso-Cabrera, who also accused the freshman lawmaker of creating "huge division within" the House Democratic caucus.

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Ocasio-Cortez fought back by accusing Carera-Cabruso of running a phony campaign and not actually caring about New York's 14th congressional district.

"While it's disappointing to see Ms. Caruso-Cabrera fixated on personal attacks -- and for some strange reason, obsessed with the six days in March that I wasn't feeling well, and had to stay in my apartment," she said. "I do think it's quite funny that she goes on and on about the fact that ... I spend time doing my job in Washington and coming home to the Bronx when she lived in a $15,000-a-month Trump Tower apartment until six months ago.

"This woman probably couldn't even find Sunnyside [Queens] on a map until she decided to challenge me for the sake of challenging me," Ocasio-Cortez added. "She doesn't care about the Bronx, she doesn't care about Queens. She cares about running for running.

"No one's ever seen this person before," the incumbent added. "Who are you? Like, where is your family from? Where have you lived? No one has seen you in this community before, and while I know you have multi-millionaires that finance your campaign, and you're financed by the same real estate developers and big banks that will profit from the corruption in Washington, and adding one more notch to their belt, I don't think it's important for us to do that. I don't think it's OK for us to do that."

"Greetings from Sunnyside, Queens," Caruso-Cabrera responded. "I love Sunnyside, Queens, I love New York. I wish I had been born in New York. Unfortunately, I wasn't. My opponent is the one that nobody ever sees in the district. Let me tell you, the second this crisis started, I started delivering food and I started delivering masks."

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"I have delivered nearly 50,000 masks and food and hand sanitizer to Jacobi Hospital, which I'm not sure you could have found on a map, AOC," she said, apprently prompting laughter from both Ocasio-Cortez and Queens activist Badrun Khan, who's also running for Ocasio-Cortez's seat.

Caruso-Cabrera claimed that on "day one, I was out delivering food, I was out delivering masks -- I wasn't even elected."

Ocasio-Cortez again insisted that she had stayed in her apartment because she was unwell before pivoting to her own actions during the pandemic.

"I'm proud to say that we continued to have a strong field force on the ground, and this is the benefit of being a movement candidate," she said. "Again, I have continued to raise over almost half-a-million dollars for food pantries, delivering meals myself, while also advocating for broader, systemic change in Washington..

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Caruso-Cabrera argued that was the "least" Ocasio-Cortez could do after "driving away 25,000 jobs," a reference to the self-described democratic socialist's opposition to Amazon's bid to build a second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.

"That's the least you could do after driving away $27 billion in tax revenue that we could have had," Caruso-Cabrera said. "Imagine if we had those jobs that you drove away right now to help us get back on our feet."

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A registered Democrat and descendant of Cuban immigrants, Caruso-Cabrera has been a fierce critic of socialism and advocate for free markets.

Her 2010 book -- titled "You Know I'm Right: More Prosperity, Less Government" -- calls out both parties for ignoring "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" Americans like herself.

The primary, which will serve as a de facto general election in the heavily Democratic district, is scheduled to take place June 23.