Conservative website The Daily Caller published a headline that referenced a phony nude photo of New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — without clarifying the image was a fake. The text of the article, however, never said the photo was real.
The image — a photo of woman painting her toenails in a bathtub, overlaid with the words “alexandria ocasio-cortez.instagram.post.9-3-2016” — was posted to Reddit, where foot fetishists quickly debunked it. The image actually depicts Sydney Leathers, a political activist and cam model, who also quickly clarified she was the one in the photo.
“Hey @AOC, I’m sorry creeps are trying to pretend my pics are actually pics of you. Happy to clear that up,” Leathers wrote on Twitter on Monday, the day the story was published. “(& tbh I’d take the blame for things I haven’t actually done just to protect your honor, you’re a national treasure).”
The Daily Caller published the story with the headline “Here’s the photo some people described as a nude photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” and the congresswoman called out the publication on Twitter Wednesday night.
By Tuesday, according to the Wayback Machine’s archives, The Daily Caller had amended the headline, which now reads: “Anthony Weiner mistress stands up for AOC after evil internet trolls spread fake nude photo.” The article itself, which hasn’t changed, never claimed that the nude photo, originally written about by VICE’s Motherboard, was actually a photo of Ocasio-Cortez. The Daily Caller’s editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Ingersoll, told VICE News that an “eager editor made a misjudgement as to the framing.”
“Betsy Rothstein's whole piece is about how Ocasio-Cortez's enemies — who Betsy describes as both horrible and evil — conjured up this fake nude and spread it online,” Ingersoll wrote in an email. “Needless to say, I had the headline corrected and updated early in the day, as soon as I noticed it.
“I had no idea screencaps were circulating until Ocasio-Cortez tweeted one,” he added.
After Ocasio-Cortez criticized the Daily Caller over the headline, the website responded to her publicly.
“As soon as editors noticed the Twitter headline, we rapidly had it deleted and fixed. The story itself is otherwise no different than what HuffPo and Vice published,” The Daily Caller tweeted. “We regret the error, as the intent was to inform our audience that a fake image was circulating online.”
The Daily Caller’s response wasn’t good enough for Ocasio-Cortez, who said that it was not “an apology” and that the website had “been posting hysteric, misrepresentative articles about me nonstop.” Just this week, the website has published at least a dozen articles — most of them critical — of the congresswoman.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to target Tucker Carlson, the Daily Caller’s founder who is now a Fox News television personality and linked him to white supremacists. White nationalist Richard Spencer as well as former KKK grand wizard David Duke have celebrated Carlson, Ocasio-Cortez noted by linking to articles and videos from Vox and Splinter.
“The real question is, at what point is their nonstop, targeted behavior considered harassment?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Cover image: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)