Critics are blasting Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for staging a “photo op” Tuesday in the US ZIP code hardest hit by the coronavirus.
A small group gathered in the virally blighted neighborhood of Corona, Queens, in AOC’s district, to hear a pitch for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer funeral assistance.
The gathering — convened as officials order ordinary New Yorkers to stay home — gave TV networks an opportunity to shoot footage of the duo, but there was no live feed to allow the event to be covered from afar, let alone a virtual press conference as most public officials have turned to in a bid to reduce exposures.
“We certainly all know what AOC looks like. There’s no need to risk everyone else’s safety by dragging folks on your staff and the press out for a photo op,” said Republican City Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island.
“She could have done one of her patented live broadcasts as she baked a casserole.”
About 10 journalists and a small number of onlookers were present, according to an organizer, who said they all wore masks and maintained distance from each other.
But a photo posted online of the Senate Minority Leader Schumer, 69, and self-avowed socialist AOC, 30 — without face masks — drew rebukes on social media. “Where’s your mask?” multiple Twitter users replied.
I’m standing near Elmhurst Hospital in Queens with @RepAOC
Elmhurst is on the frontlines
The toll here is heartbreaking—with families paying the ultimate price
FEMA must approve our request for help for NY families faced with overwhelming funeral/burial costs they can’t afford pic.twitter.com/9UsVXlo41l
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 14, 2020
Schumer teamed up with the left-wing firebrand AOC after a recent discussion of constituents struggling with the financial cost of deaths from COVID-19, which has infected about 200,000 New Yorkers and killed about 11,000.
“The neighborhood of Corona, Queens has the highest number of positive COVID-19 tests of any zip code in the country,” said a joint release. “Of all the ZIP codes with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, half of the top ten reside in NY-14. Latinx people also comprise 34 percent of the COVID-19-related deaths in New York City.”
Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said the lawmakers and all attendees wore masks — except when Schumer and AOC spoke. They also maintained a six-foot distance recommended by federal health officials, he said. Some news outlets, including The Post, declined to send journalists.
“The crisis in NY-14 is urgent as it relates to the issue. Funeral homes will tell you,” Roefaro told The Post. “The only two to remove masks for speaking were the officials. There were no chats after with constituents, something Schumer is known to do.”
“This mattered to Chuck because the numbers are jarring and the feds can take immediate action if they feel compelled.,” Roefaro added. “He and AOC discussed the issue over the phone a few days ago with the delegation. FEMA can act right now — and should.”
AOC’s press representatives did not immediately offer comment.
A FEMA spokesman told The Post that the only individual assistance authorized for COVID-19-impacted families is crisis counseling. The policy for funeral costs is under review.
In a joint statement, AOC and Schumer said: “FEMA must do the right thing during this crisis, exactly what they did after Hurricane Sandy, and deliver special funds to New York families faced with mounting funeral and burial costs they simply cannot afford.”
Schumer and AOC last month carried on business as usual on Capitol Hill. With no federal recommendation for face coverings, Schumer worked late nights to broker a more than $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill with White House representatives. AOC voted to pass the bill in the House, joining New York colleagues who flouted federal self-quarantine recommendations for all New Yorkers.
President Trump has sought to stoke a rivalry between the Democrats. In February, Trump told reporters he believes AOC will challenge Schumer for his Senate seat in 2022 and that “she will kick his ass.”