Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended comments she made over the weekend suggesting that the crime surge in New York City is likely because struggling residents are forced to shoplift in order to "feed their child” by saying Republicans haven’t “experienced or seen” poverty.
“Republicans are all upset that I’m connecting the dots between poverty and crime,” the progressive firebrand tweeted. “I know most of them haven’t experienced or seen these issues first hand, but I have. This may be hard for them to admit, but poverty and crime are highly linked, both violent & nonviolent alike.”
In a virtual town hall meeting she hosted Thursday, some clips of which were shared by The Hill, the 30-year-old Democratic congresswoman was asked about the troubling uptick in violent crimes overtaking the city.
“Do we think this has to do with the fact that there’s record unemployment in the United States right now?" she responded. "The fact that people are at a level of economic desperation that we have not seen since the Great Recession?"
"Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren't paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent and so they go out, and they need to feed their child and they don't have money," Ocasio-Cortez continued, adding that “they’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry that night.”
The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department push the number of job losses since the shutdown began to nearly 50 million – or roughly 31 percent of the nation's workforce.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has reported a staggering increase in shootings and violent crimes in recent weeks. On Saturday, the New York Post reported 15 shootings in 15 hours, just one week after the city saw a bloody July Fourth weekend with 44 shootings and at least eight killed.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called the congresswoman’s comments “astonishing” on “America’s Newsroom.”
“There’s a big difference between shoplifting and cold-blooded murder and for her not to know the difference is frankly astonishing,” Huckabee said.
“Her saying, ‘people are hungry so they’re going out and lifting bread,’ no, they are going out and killing people randomly,” Huckabee said.
“You don't kill a 1-year-old because you need some bread, that doesn’t put bread on your table and that's why the absurdity of her [Ocasio-Cortez’s] remarks have to be called out.”
“She needs to be held accountable for this,” he continued. “She needs to walk it back and recognize that violent crime has nothing to do with people's lifting some bread.”
New York City recently cut the NYPD budget by $1 billion, but Ocasio-Cortez has criticized the cuts for not reaching far enough, and accused de Blasio of using "budget tricks" and "funny math" in the calculation. Others, including former law enforcement officials, have made the same argument about budget gimicks being used reach the $1 billion figure.
When asked later to comment on the issue, the congresswoman said: "When people ask me 'What does a world where we defund the police look like?', I tell them it looks like a suburb."