At a crowded town-hall-style meeting hosted in Queens on Thursday by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young woman stood up and began addressing the climate crisis.
But her pleas took an abrupt turn for the absurd.
“Your next campaign slogan has to be this,” she said, removing her jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.”
“We got to start eating babies,” the woman said. “There’s too much CO2. All of you, you know, you’re a pollutant.”
Was the woman serious? Was she ill? Was this an act?
The answer to the latter question appears to be known: A fringe activist group, the Lyndon LaRouche Political Action Committee, took credit for the stunt on Twitter, saying, “It was us,” and “sometimes, only satire works.”
Nonetheless, the moment — and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s measured response — sparked a debate that ricocheted around the internet, with #EattheBabies trending on Twitter. Why didn’t she denounce a plan to eat babies? Did she really have to?
What has been immediately clear since her election last year is that practically anywhere Ms. Ocasio-Cortez goes, attention is paid. That was especially true for Thursday’s meeting, inside the Queens Public Library in Corona. The Democratic congresswoman represents parts of Queens and the Bronx.
Congress members regularly have these types of events with little fanfare. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s was different: It was packed with constituents, reporters and at least one television camera, carrying the event live on C-Span.
In other words, it was the perfect stage for a performance.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez stood in the front of the room with her head tilted, as if listening intently. Organizers eventually began to gather around the speaker, presumably to end her diatribe. Still, the woman implored Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, “This is very serious. Please give a response.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, whose progressive activism and support for the Green New Deal helped make her a target of right-wing provocateurs, replied earnestly.
“We need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. She added: “If we act in a positive way, there is space for hope. We are never beyond hope.” The audience applauded and the woman was led out of the event.
On Friday, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez returned to the topic, writing on Twitter that the woman was a “Trump supporter,” adding that her political affiliation did not rule out a “potential mental issue (Drs do that) but good to know they were not in crisis. Earlier this year I was stalked & very nearly hurt by a disturbed person. I don’t take chances & immediately try to de-escalate.”