The untold truth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress at age 29. She is a rising voice in American politics who CNN called a “social media titan,” but we don’t know much about her personal life, especially in connection to her long-time, live-in boyfriend, Riley Roberts. He’s the tall, ginger-bearded man that you can occasionally spot in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House, standing beside Ocasio-Cortez, documenting her speeches on his iPhone, or offering words of encouragement.
While Ocasio-Cortez (commonly referred to as just AOC) has become a household name, Roberts has largely remained in the background. The Boston University grad has no public social media and his former LinkedIn page can no longer be found. The camera-shy tech entrepreneur has made the occasional cameo on Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram stories and in her wide-ranging interviews, but both seem to prefer to keep their relationship private. In a lengthy AOC profile in 2018, Vogue devotes a couple sentences to him, simply describing the man as “an easygoing redhead who works in web development.” So who is the guy behind the powerful and outspoken Congresswoman? Let’s take a closer look.
AOC’s mom is team Riley
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According to the Daily Mail, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s mom considers Riley Roberts marriage material. “I love him,’ Blanca Ocasio-Cortez said about her daughter’s longtime beau in 2019. “He is the most loving, supporting person I’ve seen. He helped her tremendously during the election. They’ve been together for four years now, after they reconnected from a college breakup.”
Alexandra’s first love was reportedly her late father, Sergio Ocasio, who died of lung cancer in 2008. “My father knew my soul better than anyone on this planet,” says AOC in Knock Down the House (via Newsweek) “He really made me believe that I had true power in this world. My dad passed away when I was in college. Losing him in a time when you’re just figuring out the world was really hard. I didn’t know up from down.”
Those seem like big shoes to fill, but Blanca (aka “BOC”) must believe that Roberts is up to the challenge because she hopes to hear wedding bells in the couples’ future. “I know they love children, and they do very well with children from the family,” BOC told the Daily Mail. “So, I hope they get married soon. Although they haven’t told me anything about their plans.’
He grew up in Paradise
Riley Roberts was raised in the affluent community of Paradise Valley, Ariz., which Forbes ranked as one of the “25 Top Places to Retire Rich.” The New York Post reports that Roberts graduated from Chaparral High School in nearby Scottsdale in 2008, “after winning statewide honors in public-forum debate.” After graduating from Boston University with a double major in sociology and finance, he reportedly returned to Arizona where he “built Web sites for small businesses.”
Roberts’ mom appears to be as smitten with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as AOC’s mom is with her daughter’s match. In fact, Connie Roberts, a well-known realtor in the Greater Phoenix Metro Area and the self-proclaimed “AZ hat lady,” tipped her cap to her son’s gal pal by gifting her a beaded, handcrafted “power necklace” made by jewelry-maker and family friend Daphne Atkeson. “It’s not by accident; they call it a statement necklace,” Atkeson told AZCentral. “It’s how you present yourself. It is also how you feel in it.” AOC reportedly wore the black, white, and silver pearl-drop necklace, which retails for about $40, during her 2018 campaign, much to the delight of Connie. “It was given to her with love,” she said.
He’s already spawning conspiracy theories
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Riley Roberts worked in the tech industry as a web consultant. Although his LinkedIn in page is no longer active, Heavy reports that his bio said he’d “helped over 60 startups” find ways to “improve their landing pages, digital marketing, and user experience design.” His profile reportedly indicated that he’d focused his “consulting efforts on subscription startups” since 2013 “because it’s where I’ve found I can deliver the highest value results for my clients.” According to Marie Claire, Roberts was also head of marketing for the HomeBinder household management app.
But right-wing conspiracy theorists have claimed Roberts is now working for his girlfriend. National Review writer Luke Thompson accused Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of putting Roberts on her payroll by tweeting a screenshot from an unknown source that showed Roberts with what appears to be a government email. “While you were having a nice Valentine’s Day, @AOC decided to put her boyfriend on staff — drawing a salary on the taxpayer’s dime. Nice to see her adapting to the swamp so quickly,” Thompson quipped.
That reportedly wasn’t the case. AOC’s Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, responded to Thompson via Twitter, insisting that Roberts is “not paid” and “not doing any government work.” Chakrabarti tweeted that “spouses and partners normally get mail.house.gov e-mail addresses for the purpose of getting calendar access.” AOC also had a thing or two to say about the dirt: “Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense.”
They keep their relationship status on the down-low
This longtime couple is so tight-lipped about its relationship status that the Daily Mail once mistakenly described Riley Roberts as a “campaign volunteer” in a picture of the two hugging. The New York Times’ extensive feature on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to her live-in boyfriend as her “partner.” Guess that’s better than roommate, right? Although AOC generally avoids talking about Roberts in interviews and on social media, she did shed some light on the beginning of their courtship in an interview with Vogue. The two Boston University students reportedly met “in true nerdy fashion” at a weekly gathering hosted by the university’s dean.
The Netflix documentary Knock Down the House reveals a bit more about the duo. The film depicts AOC and Roberts going about their daily lives in their tiny apartment; him dutifully collecting signatures to get her on the ballot; and a tender scene where he wipes away her tears in front of the Capitol building. That said, The Huffington Post described Roberts’ role in the film and in AOC’s life like this: “If it weren’t for his bright red hair, you’d hardly notice him.”
He didn’t vote for her
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Riley Roberts may have a played a central role in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking primary victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District, but he reportedly didn’t even vote for her … or anyone,f or that matter. According to the New York Post, the significant other of one of the Democratic party’s rising stars “has never registered to vote.” If true, this is a bit hypocritical, considering Roberts is depicted gathering voters’ signatures to put his girlfriend on the ballot in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House.
Regardless, the documentary film’s director, Rachel Lears, suggested that AOC leans heavily on her strong, silent-type boyfriend. “He was a big support system for her,” Lears told Business Insider. “He was emotionally supportive to her and a good partner, but he’s also a social media-marketing expert by profession, so he contributed strategic advice and dialogue. I heard a lot of rants in that apartment about politics — they would talk with each other about ideas. So in everything from the emotional to the strategic to the practical he’s been a really important partner to her.”
He’s got a couple dopplegangers
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s man often gets mistaken for the other Riley Roberts, a well-known political speechwriter who also resides in D.C. Not only do AOC’s beau and the Obama administration veteran share the same name, but they also resemble one another in appearance. The similarities have confused some, including Beltway-based author Dannielle Blumenthal, who tweeted: “I thought I had discovered a connection between Eric Holder and AOC’s boyfriend, Riley Roberts — but that turned out to be incorrect. Eric Holder’s speechwriter Riley Roberts is a different person. They look similar and it is easy to confuse them.”
French feminist writer Marie Le Conte took it a step farther by comparing Roberts to a “bin raccoon” (via the Washington Examiner). “Apologies for the blatantly mean tweet but THIS is what AOC’s boyfriend looks like? … truly representing all the ambitious and stunning millennial women shackled to boyfriends who look like bin raccoons out there.” Others came to his defense, suggesting more favorable comparisons, including this one with Wildling warrior Tormund from Game of Thrones.
According to the New York Post, Roberts was even “Twitter-shamed” into getting a makeover, although AOC seemed to make light of the hairy situation in an Instagram story showcasing his fresh trim. “The internet roasted Riley into getting a haircut/glow up after #KnockDownTheHouse,” she captioned the clip. In the video, she’s also heard telling her beau: “You look good! Ooooh, look at that shape-up!”
He may be a model boyfriend
Despite being called everything from an “exotic beard oil enthusiast” to a “bin raccoon,” Riley Roberts has simultaneously become some sort of a de facto dream boyfriend lauded for his support and dedication to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s personal and professional life. Feminist author Liz Plank tweeted: “After watching the AOC doc I keep thinking about how crucial it is for women to have partners that celebrate rather than coop their successes and how little we encourage or prepare men to fulfill that role.”
A Nylon scribe addressed the hate directed at Roberts for his trash-panda appearance in a stern editorial: “The way a person looks says pretty much nothing about them … If Roberts didn’t support AOC’s journey to Congress, then, sure, he would be pretty representative of the sh*tty men that straight women sometimes choose to date, but he did. And in any case, these are just bad photos, and I think he looks pretty nerdy-cute.”