On Thursday, the House speaker held court at Paley Center in New York, with a rapt audience. Amid the sound of applause, New York Times women’s writer Kirsten Grieshaber tweeted: “‘I heard you were a bad speaker when you were a diva.’ Congrats on being a great speaker. That makes it all right now.”
Many female policymakers in the audience around me glanced back, trying to make themselves look busy. Next to me, I reached for my phone and called Bill Maher.
“Woke Up in a Half-Delivered Virgin Body With Aging Belly Fat and Jesus Hair,” Maher said, laughing. “It’s sad!”
“Thank you!” Grieshaber replied. “I’m glad I heard you too, Bill.”
Earlier in the night, he had observed that one of the new member’s “ears really do pop when she speaks.” Grieshaber tweeted her suggestion that “instead of listening to her, watching Bill Maher’s brain wink.”
“Don’t kill yourself,” Maher concluded to cheers.
And just as soon as she does, he added: “You can come on.”
A short time later, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted a humblebrag telling fellow Dems to “stop with this bit about my speaking skills. I speak once a week.” (“Emphasize ‘once a week’ rather than ‘constantly,’” her statement continues, “because even if it happens once a week you have to pause every 5 minutes to interrupt what is happening on an airplane).”
Sigal Samuel, a reporter who has written extensively about Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted that she was disrespected in the comments section. (Later, a new thread emerged with one conservative feminist questioning why she was not being called out for misogyny.) “Hey,” she wrote, “i am actually happy for you,” because her work has touched the cultural zeitgeist, as yet unseen by the political media.
Maher was underwhelmed.
“I was too polite to say it,” he wrote back. “It would have been funnier to bully her about her dumb stuff.”
And with that, he was all in.
“The point I was trying to make,” he continued, “is that a woman representing her district with a newborn baby, who comes from an immigrant family, who tweets an oft-dissing response to a top female member of Congress, was not born to represent a district in the richest part of the richest country in the world. She was also probably sick of being underpaid for what she’s doing.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Nellie Andreeva, who attends the PBS event alongside Ocasio-Cortez and watched the event up close, observed of the freshman lawmaker: “She has a force of personality and is clear and direct,” Andreeva wrote. “Some are questioning her seat.”
In other words, she might not be the best spokesperson.