Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s guest for the State of the Union address is an activist who cornered then-Sen. Jeff Flake on live television last year to protest his support for Brett Kavanaugh ahead of the Supreme Court justice's confirmation.
Her choice of guest came as a newly unearthed sexual-assault claim threatened to rattle the political world. Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, denied an allegation of sexual misconduct first reported by a conservative website. He told reporters that the 2004 encounter with a woman was consensual, and he called the accusation a political “smear.”
Ocasio-Cortez has stayed quiet on that claim. However, on Monday afternoon she tweeted a previous video of her talking during her campaign to protesters at Boston City Hall in early October about sexual assault and power dynamics.
“Sexual assault is about the abuse of power,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the video. “It is always women who are always marginalized. It is the young, it is the interns, it is the immigrant, it is the trans. They are always most at risk because society listens to them the least. And that is why a man believes that an elite education, a high income, and his rich friends can get away with sexual assault.”
Ocasio-Cortez's State of the Union guest, Ana Maria Archila, said she will wear white and a pin that the congresswoman gave her that says, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
“I never thought I’d be excited about being in the same room with Donald Trump,” said Archila, co-executive director of the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy. She lives in the star freshman Democrat’s New York district.
Ocasio-Cortez invited her a few weeks ago, she said, adding, “We talked about making sure that we, with our presence, express the dignity of people who are under attack from this administration, the resilience. We will try to communicate that with the way we show up in the space.”
Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court justice, also is expected to attend Trump’s address. Justices typically attend such speeches delivered by the president who appointed them.
During Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in September, Archila and another woman confronted Flake in a Senate elevator and, live on CNN, yelled at the Arizona Republican for his intent to vote for the appellate court judge. Kavanaugh had been accused by Christine Blasey Ford of pinning her to a bed and groping her when the two were teenagers in the 1980s. Flake later said he wanted to delay the Senate vote to give the committee time to investigate. He ultimately voted to confirm Kavanaugh and is now retired from the Senate.
Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusation and was confirmed to the high court. Still, Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s emotional appeals to the Judiciary Committee were a cultural watershed amid the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.
Archila said that day was the first time she had revealed her own sexual assault as a child in Colombia.
The Center for Popular Democracy revealed the pairing with a video released on social media.
“Our own @AnaMariaArchil2 showed the world what courage & strength look like in the age of Trump. Tomorrow night, she will join another bada-- woman, @AOC @RepAOC for the #SOTU.”
Ocasio-Cortez retweeted the post with a public invitation: “This @AnaMariaArchil2, the NY-14 shero that will be accompanying me to the State of the Union tomorrow. She wasn’t planning on leaping into that elevator ahead of the Kavanaugh vote, but after hearing the stories of survivors across the country, she went in. A defining moment.”
Fairfax is next in line to be governor if Democrat Ralph Northam resigns amid a furor over a racist photo in his 1984 yearbook. The sexual-assault allegations were first reported by Big League Politics, the outlet that first published the yearbook image.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.