Ali needed Frazier. Bird needed Magic. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene needs Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Or perhaps it is the other way around.
Whatever the case, Ms. Greene, a hard-right rabble-rouser from rural Georgia, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a far-left firebrand from New York City, are blazing paths to political stardom that are built less on notching legislative accomplishments and more on winning the internet and fanning the flames of partisan combat — and getting under the skin of political opponents.
The two worlds collided last week when Ms. Greene reportedly screamed at Ms. Ocasio-Cortez outside the House chamber, accusing her of being a terrorist and Antifa sympathizer and demanding a public debate.
The behavior set off a drama-filled chain of events. Ms. Ocasio Cortez questioned Ms. Greene‘s sanity, Ms. Greene claimed she is the real victim and Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, chewed out one of the Georgia Republican’s aides.
Former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III said the clash makes the entire institution “look amateurish.”
“The problem with this is they both get political mileage out of it,” the Virginia Republican said. “You don’t really think this is going to hurt AOC in her congressional district, do you? You don’t really think this is going to hurt Greene in her congressional district, do you?”
Ms. Greene raised a whopping $3.2 million for her reelection campaign over the first three months of the year, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez raised $2.7 million.
“We are in an era where bad behavior gets rewarded,” Mr. Davis said. “You raise more money online and get more cable time, and the true believers in the party reward that behavior.”
“If bad behavior gets rewarded, you are going to get more of it,” he said.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week” that both parties have to rediscover civility.
“We have to stop incentivizing people to, to show up here and think, you know, the goal is to be a social media star,” Ms. Cheney said.
Ms. Greene has become known for her confrontational style after promoting QAnon conspiracy theories and “liking” social posts on Facebook that discuss the prospect of violence against Democrats.
Ms. Greene more recently has been fixated on debating Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the “verbal assault” was “beyond the pale” and that the House Ethics Committee should probably investigate.
Ms. Greene countered that the Ethics Committee “should look into @AOC for putting Trump admin staff and supporters on lists to destroy their lives and prevent future employment.”
“She threatened the livelihoods of Americans for simply being Republicans,” she said in a post on Twitter.
The political saga intensified after CNN unearthed a video from 2019 showing Ms. Greene, before she was a member of Congress, on the search for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Capitol Hill.
The footage shows Ms. Greene standing outside the Democrat’s locked congressional door, taunting her through the mail slot and defiling her guest book.
“You need to stop being a baby and stop locking your door and come out and face the American citizens that you serve,” Ms. Greene says in the video through the mail slot. “If you want to be a big girl, you need to get rid of your diaper and come out and be able to talk to the American citizens instead of just having to use a flap, a little flap, it’s kind of like crazy. Sad.”
Ms. Greene downplayed the episode.
She was simply lobbying members of Congress and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was hiding, she said.
Ms. Ocascio-Cortez, in turn, questioned Ms. Greene‘s mental health.
“This is a woman that’s deeply unwell,” she said. “And clearly needs help. And her kind of fixation has lasted for several years now. At this point, I think the depth of that unwellness has raised concerns for other members as well.
“I think this is an assessment that needs to be made by the proper professionals,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said.
Mr. Swalwell entered the fray after Greene spokesman Nick Dyer reportedly informed the California Democrat as he exited the House that “Biden says you can take off your mask.”
Mr. Dyer told reporters that Mr. Swalwell proceeded to get into his face and tell him: “You don’t tell me what to [expletive] do.”
Mr. Swalwell had a different version. He told CNN that Mr. Dyer’s snide remark set him off and he is tired of “these marauding goons going around trying to bully” members of Congress.
“I had a mask on as I stepped off the Floor,” Mr. Swallwell tweeted later. “An aide with @mtgreenee yelled at me to take my mask off.
“No one should be bullied for wearing a mask,” he said. “So I told the bully what I thought of his order. Predictably, he went speechless. I regret I wasn’t more explicit.”
In a sign of the times, Mr. Swalwell turned around and sent out a fundraising email seeking donations “so we can keep standing up to far-right bullies of all kinds.”
Ms. Greene, who has railed against masks, said Mr. Swalwell is lying about what happened.
“My staffer nicely says to him, ‘Congressman, you don’t have to wear your mask anymore because of what Biden said yesterday,” she told reporters outside the Capitol. “He chases my staffer inside and gets in his face, curses at him, saying, You don’t tell me what to do.’”
Ms. Greene said she is the victim and the Democrats are the party of aggression and violence.
She said Democrats stripped her of her committee assignments for no reason.
Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, yelled at Ms. Greene for not properly wearing her mask. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, California Democrat, is trying to “expel” her, and Rep. Marie Newman, Illinois Democrat, “shoulder checked” her on her way to a vote, she said.
“They don’t know what to do with me because I am not going to back down and be intimidated by their bully tactics,” Ms. Greene told Newsmax.
“They are accusing me of being aggressive and saying my mannerisms are wrong,” she said. “It is definitely the other way around because they are hypocrites and they’re the ones that are completely out of line.”
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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