Alexandria Ocasio-CortezPhoto: screenshot from YouTube video
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) expressed shock at a male Republican committee member’s treatment of a black environmental lawyer during a hearing Thursday.
“Frankly, men who treat women like that in public,” Ocasio-Cortez said of the Republican’s behavior, “I fear the way they treat them in private.”
Cortez chastised Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) after his heated discussion with environmental lawyer Raya Salter about petrochemicals during a House hearing titled “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Prices, Profits , and Pledges”.
Salter is a member of the New York State Climate Action Council and executive director of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center, an organization that focuses the concerns of communities on the front lines of pollution and climate change; especially working class people, Indigenous communities and those historically disenfranchised by racial and social inequality.
Higgins began the exchange by saying that Salter had delivered “some of the wackiest testimony I’ve seen in six years on this oversight committee.”
“It’s breathtaking,” he said. “With all due respect to our panelists today, I’m not sure some of you are connected to reality.”
Higgins asked Salter how she could advocate for shutting down petrochemical plants when so many of the products she and the world use every day depend on petrochemicals.
Salter replied, “Actually, I don’t need that power. Because what I would do is ask you, mister from Louisiana, to search your heart and understand why the EPA knows that toxic petrochemical facilities are some of the most toxic and polluting facilities in the world and kill people Blacks throughout Louisiana. So my request would be that you search with your heart and ask your God what you are doing to the blacks and poor people of Louisiana.
Higgins spoke about his response, then briefly argued with the president. Higgins then began talking to Salter again, their voices getting louder while often talking over each other. He even called the lawyer “young lady”.
“America needs to hear it,” Higgins said. “You don’t have an answer, do you, young lady, on what to do with petrochemicals?”
Salter replied, “Of course we do. We have to move away from petrochemicals. We need to shut down petrochemical facilities in your state and move away from plastic. We have to get away from it. »
He replied, “That’s crazy. What are you going to do with the aeronautical industry?
Salter replied, “The only thing that wouldn’t work is your state’s petrochemical industry, sir.”
Higgins then asked Salter if she had “an ecological concern, for real, like from a biblical standpoint.”
He said, “The Lord has given us dominion over the planet and its creatures…. to care for and feed. So from a biblical point of view, I am an environmentalist: I love my planet, my people and their creatures. Do you?”
Salter replied, “The fossil fuel industry that owns your state is destroying the earth and the natural world, and that is a fact, sir.”
Higgins replied, “You know what you got, young lady? You’ve had a lot of noise but you haven’t had any answers.
Afterward, Ocasio-Cortez spoke directly to Salter and said, “In the four years I’ve served on this committee, I’ve never seen a congressman, Republican or Democrat, run out of respect to a witness as I have seen them. disrespecting you today. I don’t care what party they are. I have never seen anything like it.
She continued, “And, the gentleman from Louisiana, the comfort he felt in yelling at you like that. There’s more than one way to get a message across. And frankly, men who treat women like that in public, I’m afraid of how they treat them in private. We can be better than that. We don’t have to resort to shouting.
Ocasio-Cortez later apologized to Salter on behalf of the committee, saying Higgins likely wouldn’t apologize for his behavior.
Salter replied, “Thank you, madam. I want to thank you, and you have provided so much leadership and courage. They can come from me all day.
Ocasio-Cortez smiled at Salter’s response and said, “Well, let’s get them today”, and continued his questioning of Salter.