Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, during a news conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
Mary F. Calvert | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A political provocateur sued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday for blocking him on Twitter after he heckled her outside the U.S. Capitol, shouting crude remarks about her body and her position on abortion.
Calling the New York Democrat his “favorite big booty Latina,” comedian Alex Stein yelled to the lawmaker that he loved her as she entered the building on July 13 in a video he posted online.
“She wants to kill babies but she’s still beautiful. You look very beautiful in that dress. You look very sexy. Look at that booty on AOC,” he catcalled to Ocasio-Cortez. “Look how sexy she looks in that dress. Oooh, I love it AOC. Hot, hot, hot like a tamale.”
Stein’s lawsuit cites a federal appeals court decision that ruled against then-President Donald Trump, saying he violated the constitutional rights of several people by blocking them from following him on Twitter.
The appeals court said Trump was acting in his official presidential capacity when he blocked those people.
Just days after that ruling in November 2019, Ocasio-Cortez apologized to and settled a case with former Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind, who sued her for blocking him on her @AOC Twitter account in response to critical replies to her tweets.
In that case, Ocasio-Cortez lifted the block on Hikind, and said he “has a First Amendment right to express his views and should not be blocked for them.”
Stein is looking for the same response with his suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
“I really don’t have any hard feelings for AOC,” Stein said, adding that is not looking for monetary damages in the case.
“I really would like to have her unblock me,” he said, noting that would allow him to “communicate with her.”
Source: Alex Stein
Ocasio-Cortez’s office and lawyers who represented her in the prior Twitter-block lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Stein’s suit.
If the congresswoman fights the complaint, it would reopen the legal argument about the rights of political figures to prevent certain individuals or groups from following them on social media platforms.
In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court erased the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Trump had violated the First Amendment rights of the people he had blocked from his Twitter account while serving in the White House. The Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to dismiss the case as moot, because Trump by then was a private citizen.
The high court’s order meant that 2nd Circuit’s ruling could no longer be used as a precedent for similar cases of elected officials blocking Twitter followers. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative district lies within the confines of the 2nd Circuit.
Stein’s case is also seen as being different than the ones involving Trump and Ocasio-Cortez because his block was issued due to statements he made in person, not on an online account.
Video of Alex Stein showing AOC
Source: Alex Stein
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out Stein’s video of the encounter that same day, calling it a “deeply disgusting incident,” and that Stein was “clearly seeking extremist fame.”
“I was actually walking over to deck him because if no one will protect us then I’ll do it myself,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But I needed to catch a vote more than a case today.”
In addition to calling out Stein for his comments, Ocasio-Cortez also blocked him that day from her @AOC Twitter account, which has more than 13 million followers, his suit said.
The suit said she blocked him “in retaliation to Mr. Stein’s exercise of his First Amendment right, because earlier that day Mr. Stein, in the context of political commentary and satire, complimented Ms. Cortez.”
“Mr. Stein has a constitutional right to access Ms. Cortez’s Twitter account as part of vigorous public comment and criticism,” according to the suit. “Ms. Cortez’s practice of blocking Twitter users she disagrees with is unconstitutional and this suit seeks to redress that wrong.”
Stein’s lawyer, Jonathan Gross, in an interview, said the reference to Ocasio-Cortez’s body “is a satire,” and the reference to her support for abortion rights “is obviously political.”
“My client is a political satirist,” Gross said. “Political speech, the Supreme Court has said, is the highest level of protected speech.”
But Gross said that regardless of what Stein said, the New York congresswoman does not have the legal right to block him on Twitter.
In his interview with CNBC, Stein said, “I didn’t really want to disrespect her” with his comments.
“It was the most gracious way I could say it,” Stein said, claiming he was actually “complimenting her.”
Stein, who has a history of confronting other politicians, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., has gained a reputation for being a “right-wing” comedian, but he objects to that label.
“Really, I’m anti-establishment,” he said.
“I believe that we should have socialized medicine,” Stein said, noting that was one left-wing idea that he shares with Ocasio-Cortez, whose district includes parts of Queens and The Bronx.
But Stein also said he was motivated to sue Ocasio-Cortez after recent news that the House Ethics Committee has extended its review of her appearance at the 2021 Met Gala where she was accused of possible accepting an impermissible gift in the form of a couture dress, handbag, shoes and jewelry in connection with the event.
“I think ethically, AOC is kind of playing fast and loose,” Stein said.
He also admitted, “Of course, I want to get her attention.”
But he said he’s also appreciative of the congresswoman, and what the confrontation has done for his career.
Within two months of the incident, Stein was in talks with the conservative Glenn Beck’s network Blaze Media to host his own show.
That show, “Prime Time with Alex Stein,” launched in February.
While his videotaped confrontations with other politicians helped raise his profile to get him that gig, “None of them moved the needle closer than AOC,” Stein said.