In 2018, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, proudly embracing the label of "Democratic Socialist."
In the years since, the Congresswoman—colloquially known as "AOC"—has become a favorite enemy of the far-right due to her progressive stances on immigration, climate policy, universal healthcare, and other issues.
A recent Reuters report spotlighted an increase in payments of $1.4 million from AOC's campaign to Financial Innovations—the firm in charge of the Congresswoman's online merchandise, signaling a heavy investment in shirts and other paraphernalia featuring her image in slogans in hopes of a return on fundraising.
Conservatives leapt to accuse AOC of hypocrisy, conflating commerce alone—which has existed in some form for thousands of years—to capitalism, a pattern of commerce in which virtually all goods and industries—even those needed for survival—are privatized for profit and granted broad exemptions from federal regulation. A defining aspect of capitalism is widening the gap between a corporation's costs—including the cost of labor paid to its workers—and the profits granted to its owners and shareholders.
Former President Donald Trump's first White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, missed these nuances, accusing AOC of "using capitalism to push socialism".
Ocasio-Cortez, who graduated cum laude with an economics degree from Boston University—highlighted this difference to Spicer, while noting her store is "unionized, doesn't operate for profit," and is used to fund mutual aid programs like tutoring, organizing, and food pantries.
Spicer soon responded, falsely suggesting that any exchange of goods between private individuals or entities is exclusive to capitalism.
He then asked her to appear on his show, which is broadcast by the far-right disinformation outlet Newsmax.
Spicer's critics pushed back against his characterization.
Spicer's tweet inadvertently further promoted AOC's merchandise.