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‘Near-Death’ Experiences: A Look Back At Famous Figures Whose Claims Drew Criticism

February 22, 2021

Earlier this year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) went viral after offering an account of her “near-death” experience during the January 6th Capitol riot. 

“All of a sudden I hear, boom, boom, boom, boom on my door,” said the 31-year-old during an Instagram livestream. “And then I hear these huge violent bangs on my door, and then on every door going into my office. Just, bang bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Like, someone was trying to break the door down. And um, there were no voices; there were no yells… no one identifying themselves. And just, boom, boom, boom. And I just get up… and I run over to the legislative office.”

Soon after the livestream, social media users questioned Ocasio-Cortez’s account of the incident, claiming it was sensationalized and that reporting of the incident gave a false sense of the danger she was in. 

In response, the hashtags #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett and #AOClied trended in the days that followed.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is far from the first political figure to face scrutiny over their account of a potentially violent encounter. Here is a look back at other notable figures who were accused of embellishing their near-death experiences.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton once claimed that she came under fire during a trip to Bosnia in 1996.

“I remember landing under sniper fire,” said Clinton during a 2008 speech. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

A CBS News video revealed that Clinton did not experience any physical threat. Instead, she was greeted by a young girl at the airport, who handed her a copy of a poem.

During the 2016 election, fact-checkers admitted that Clinton’s claims were undeniably false. Then-candidate Donald Trump proclaimed that Clinton “said she was under attack… but the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers.”

Clinton is no stranger to embellished and false claims. Throughout her long political career, the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State alleged that she was named after explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to climb Mt. Everest; received a rejection after applying for the Marines in 1975; and “came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.”

Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) recently blamed Republican colleagues for infecting her with COVID-19. However, footage revealed that she was maskless on the House floor five days before her positive test result.

“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” said the Congresswoman in a lengthy January 11 press release. “Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack.”

She also took a swipe at the 45th President: “I share the outrage and anger of my constituents and those across this country who have watched Donald Trump fail to combat this raging pandemic and refuse to take care of Americans who are suffering, dying, and devastated.”

Rep. Jayapal called for “serious fines to be immediately levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol.”

In addition to not wearing a mask herself, the Congresswoman failed to mention that a few days earlier, a fellow Democrat appeared on the House floor despite testing positive for COVID-19. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) ignored quarantine recommendations to vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House. 

Brian Williams

Former NBC Nightly News managing editor Brian Williams stated that his helicopter was struck by an RPG while visiting Iraq. The assertion was proven to be completely false.

In 2015, the longtime anchor claimed that the military aircraft was “forced down after being hit by an RPG” on March 24, 2003. While other helicopters were indeed forced down earlier in the day, Williams was not on board.

“Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter,” reported Stars and Stripes. His helicopter “took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert.”

Williams apologized on his program, stating that he “made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.” NBC immediately suspended Williams for six months without pay.

Jussie Smollett

Actor Jussie Smollett — the inspiration for the hashtag #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett — falsely claimed that he was attacked by two Trump supporters in Chicago.

In 2019, the “Empire” actor told police that he was attacked by two men in the middle of the night. He stated that the men used racist and homophobic slurs, placed a noose around his neck, and chanted the phrase “MAGA country.”

Vice President Kamala Harris — then a member of the Senate — rose to Smollett’s defense.

“@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know,” she tweeted. “I’m praying for his quick recovery.”

“This was an attempted modern day lynching,” added the California Democrat. “No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

A month after the incident, Chicago police found that Smollett personally paid the supposed attackers. Harris chimed in once more, expressing disappointment over Smollett’s false police report but insisting that “hate crimes are on the rise in America.”

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.

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