In early 2019, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King posted a meme that ridiculed his Democratic Congressional counterpart, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (often known by her initials AOC), a frequent target of scrutiny and misinformation, mostly from right-leaning critics.
King wrote, “Wrong again, AOC” alongside a meme containing a photograph of Ocasio-Cortez, a photograph of the Great Wall of China, and the following text: “‘All the technology in the world won’t let us build a wall in Mountains!’ Meanwhile…in 700 A.D.”
The meme indirectly attributed the quotation to Ocasio-Cortez by juxtaposing it with her image, and King directly attributed it to her with his additional comment “Wrong again, AOC.”
The logic of the meme was that Ocasio-Cortez, in arguing against the construction of a wall along the southern border of the United States, had claimed walls could not be built in mountains. That claim (if she had made it) would have been false, as evidenced by the construction of the Great Wall of China hundreds of years ago.
Neither the meme itself, nor the Iowa Congressman’s Facebook post, included any citation or source for the quotation. Despite this, King’s followers and supporters shared it widely during February and March 2019.
We found no evidence to corroborate Ocasio-Cortez’s having said or written the words attributed to her in the meme, or any similarly-worded statement, despite our checking of extensive news archives, Ocasio-Cortez’s social media profiles and press releases, and Congressional archives. Our research did not reveal any authentic source for the quotation.
We contacted a spokesperson for King, seeking a source for the quotation as well as an explanation of what efforts King had made to verify the authenticity of the quotation before posting it, and whether he now intended to remove the meme from his Facebook page or keep it in place. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response in time for publication, but as of 4 April the meme was still displayed on King’s Facebook page.
Although he was the most prominent person to promulgate the meme, King does not appear to have been its creator. On 17 February, five days before he shared it on his Facebook page, the meme was posted to a forum on AR15.com as part of a thread that included multiple alt-right tropes and motifs as well as racist and homophobic imagery.