‘I Will Never Apologize’: Ocasio-Cortez Defends Concentration Camp Comments Amid Backlash

June 19, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has refused to apologize for comments she made in a video earlier this week where she compared U.S. border facilities with “concentration camps,” despite receiving widespread condemnation for the controversial remarks.

“DHS ripped 1000s of children from their parents & put them in cages w inhumane conditions. They call their cells ‘dog pounds’ & ‘freezers,'” she wrote on Twitter on June 19.

“I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are. If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps—not the nomenclature.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet came after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) condemned the freshman Democrat, saying that she needed to “apologize, not only to the nation but to the world.”

“She does not understand history. She does not understand what’s going on at the border at the same time. But there is no comparison and to actually say that is really embarrassing,” McCarthy said during a press conference on June 19.

During an Instagram live video on June 17, the radical politician used the term linked to the Nazi camps holding Jews during World War II to describe the holding facilities at the southern border. She also made a direct comparison to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.

“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are,” Ocasio-Cortez said, reported Ryan Saavedra of the conservative Daily Wire website. “They are concentration camps. And, um, if that doesn’t bother you, I don’t, I don’t know, I like, we can have, okay whatever.”

“I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not… that ‘Never Again’ means something and that the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it,” she continued.

“This week, children, immigrant children were moved to the same internment camps where the Japanese were held in, in the early, in the earlier 20th century and this is, um, this is not even about a crisis for, this is not just about the immigrant communities being held in concentration camps being a crisis.”

The Trump administration recently opened up the Fort Sill Army Base to hold children who have entered the country illegally, something the Obama administration had used for the same purpose.

Her comments quickly drew criticism from many commentators and politicians, who argued that border facilities don’t constitute concentration camps because anyone in them is free to leave if they depart the country.

“It’s disgusting to compare concentration camps to what the men and women are doing here protecting our country,” National Border Patrol Council Art Del Cueto told Fox News.

“It is definitely a slap in the face to a lot of those people who had family members who actually went through concentration camps,” he added.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) also criticized the freshman lawmaker. She said, “Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”

Despite the wide condemnation for her comments, several journalists came to her defense.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes wrote that people criticizing Ocasio-Cortez should “learn some actual history.”

“If you spend a few minutes learning some actual history, you will find out that concentration camps are different from death camps and have a history that both predates and extends far past the Nazis,” he said in reply to Cheney’s comment.

Similarly, Andrew Kaczynski, a former Buzzfeed reporter who now works for CNN, responded to criticism of Ocasio-Cortez by writing about Auschwitz, where over 1 million people were killed by the Nazis: “Auschwitz was a mixture of work and extermination camps.”

Ocasio-Cortez defended her comments on June 18 as she doubled down on her use of the loaded term.

“For the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps. Concentration camps are considered by experts as ‘the mass detention of civilians without trial.’ And that’s exactly what this administration is doing,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, a number of Jewish groups criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, including the JCRC of New York.

“We urge @AOC to refrain from using terminology evocative of the Holocaust tonvoice (sic) concerns about contemporary political issues, as per our letter below,” the group wrote.

In a letter to the lawmaker, leaders of the group wrote that they were “deeply disturbed by the language used in your recent Instagram live video which seeks to equate the detention centers on America’s southern border with Nazi-era Concentration Camps.”

“The terms ‘Concentration Camp’ and ‘Never Again’ are synonymous with and evocative of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in which six million European Jews were systematically denied civil and human rights due to their race and ultimately murdered in state-sponsored genocide,” the leaders wrote.

“As concerned we are about the conditions experienced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States … the regrettable use of Holocaust terminology to describe these contemporary concerns diminishes the evil intent of the Nazis to eradicate the Jewish people.”

NTD reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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