In a predictable move, Representative Ted Yoho apologized Wednesday for the “abrupt manner” surrounding his testy confrontation with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Capitol earlier this week.
Ocasio-Cortez promptly refused the gesture, saying Yoho’s heart simply wasn’t in it.
The sudden back-and-forth marked the latest developments in a quickly evolving saga featuring two of Capitol Hill’s more polarizing lawmakers: a Freedom Caucus conservative from North Central Florida and a liberal firebrand representing parts of Queens and the Bronx.
The pair had jousted Monday morning just outside the Capitol building over sharp differences of opinion in how best to fight crime. After walking away, Yoho had referred to Ocasio-Cortez using a profane, sexist slur.
Under pressure from House leaders in both parties, Yoho took to the chamber floor Wednesday morning to apologize for his tone.
“I rise today to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York,” Yoho said. “It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful.”
Yoho emphasized that his harshest words were never expressed directly to Ocasio-Cortez. But he stopped short of acknowledging he said them, referring only to “words attributed to me by the press.”
And after shifting the topic from civility to poverty, he made a point to argue that economic hardship is no excuse for criminal activity — the topic at the root of his clash with Ocasio-Cortez on Monday — and that he wouldn’t apologize for his “passion” in thinking so.
“I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding — that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of the country in mind and the people we serve,” he said.
“I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”
Yoho’s remarks received a warm reception from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat who had called a day earlier for Yoho to apologize on the floor. Hoyer said the message was “appropriate” and predicted that Ocasio-Cortez “appreciates that apology” as well.
Shortly afterward, however, Ocasio-Cortez declared a decidedly different verdict, noting that Yoho had not mentioned her name, while accusing him of “blaming others” for his own misconduct.
“I will not teach my nieces and young people watching that this an apology, and what they should learn to accept,” she tweeted.
“Yoho is refusing responsibility.”
Monday’s confrontation was brief but heated. Yoho had approached Ocasio-Cortez on the steps during a vote and lashed out at her for proposing that poverty, unemployment and societal neglect were fueling a recent crime spike in New York City.
It was less a conversation than it was a denunciation: Yoho said she was “disgusting” and “out of your freaking mind” for holding such an opinion. Ocasio-Cortez fired back, accusing him of being “rude.”
After the pair had split, Yoho uttered to himself: “F—ing bitch.”
Hoyer wasted little time calling for Yoho’s apology Tuesday morning after hearing news of the encounter. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Yoho later in the day to decide a course, which led to Yoho’s apology Wednesday.
“We think everybody should show respect to one another,” McCarthy said.
By Wednesday afternoon, however, a number of Democrats had joined Ocasio-Cortez in accusing Yoho of feigned sincerity.
“Rep. Yoho’s actions were unprofessional, misogynistic, and bullying. This was not an apology and no one should accept it as one,” Representative Jennifer Wexton tweeted. “My colleague needs to take responsibility for his actions—this isn’t it.”
Representative Karen Bass, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, delivered a similar message while appearing on “The View.”
“I know that Yoho apologized today,” Bass said. “We don’t think that’s enough. We’re not finished.”