ABC and CBS have both recently wielded PolitiFact as a club to bash Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), yet in the 29 months since President Barack Obama took office – despite 49 "false" ratings in Obama's PolitiFact file – the three broadcast networks have cited the fact-checking website only once to challenge the Democratic commander-in-chief.
ABC host George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" used PolitiFact as an excuse to badger Bachmann about her past statements, while CBS host Bob Schieffer on Sunday's "Face the Nation" pressed the Republican presidential candidate to answer to a spate of PolitiFact judgments against her.
"But, as you make progress in this campaign, everything you say is going to get more scrutiny," lectured Stephanopoulos. "And the Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact has said you have the worst record of making false statements of any of the leading contenders."
"A lot of your critics say you have been very fast and loose with the truth," accused Schieffer. "You know, the PolitiFact, which is a website that won a Pulitzer, did an analysis of 23 statements that you made recently. Of these 23, only one they said was completely true. Seven they call 'pants on fire' kind of falsehoods. Four were 'barely true' and two were 'half- true.' How do you answer that criticism?"
Despite 39 "barely true" and 49 "false" ratings in Obama's PolitiFact file, a Nexis search revealed just a single instance of ABC, CBS, or NBC referencing the fact-check website to dispute statements the Democratic president has made since he took office. Such "false" statements include claiming exports have doubled under his watch, the White House's budget proposal would not add to the national debt, and his administration has never raised taxes. Click here to peruse all of Obama's "false" rulings.
ABC's "This Week," which encourages viewers to visit PolitiFact.com, was the only broadcast news program to mention one of Obama's negative PolitiFact judgments since the president took office. On the December 27, 2009 program, ABC's Jake Tapper called out then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Obama's broken promise to televise the health care negotiations on C-SPAN before backing away from the charge: "Now, PolitiFact labeled that a broken promise. I'm not, I'm a little bit more generous this Christmas spirit. You still have one more step in the negotiation process."
A transcript of the relevant portions of the CBS "Face the Nation" segment, which aired on June 26, can be found below:
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you a question that you don't have to answer. I'll preface it that way. You're a proud Christian. And my feeling had always been that people in public life, if they want to talk about their religion and what it means to them, fine. If they don't, that's their business. And you can say, none of your business. But I would like to ask you this question. You can answer it or not answer it. You said you had no idea of going into politics, but God called you to go into politics. If you want to answer that question, I'd like to know the circumstances of that.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R-Minn.): Sure. I'll be happy to. I am a Christian, as is my husband. I became a Christian when I was 16 years old. I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. And since that time, I've been a person of prayer. And so when I pray, I pray believing that God will speak to me and give me an answer to that prayer. And so that's what a calling is. If I pray, a calling means that I feel like I have a sense from God which, what direction I'm supposed to go.
SCHIEFFER: But did He, did God tell you he wanted you to run for the Minnesota State Senate or something like that?
BACHMANN: I prayed about that as well. And that's really what that means. It means that I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go.
SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you about something else. A lot of your critics say you have been very fast and loose with the truth. You know, the PolitiFact, which is a website that won a Pulitzer, did an analysis of 23 statements that you made recently. Of these 23, only one they said was completely true. Seven they call "pants on fire" kind of falsehoods. Four were "barely true" and two were "half- true." How do you answer that criticism? Because here's one of them. You know, you said on the record there had been only one offshore oil drilling permit during the Obama administration. And in fact, at that time, there had been 270. How do you explain that?
BACHMANN: Well, you know, I think that what's clear more than anything is the fact that President Obama has not been issuing the permits that he should have been issuing on offshore drilling. That's why we're in the problems we're in.
SCHIEFFER: But it has to be more than 300 now. At that time, there had been 200-and-something, and you said there had been only one.
BACHMANN: But, as far as drilling goes, we hadn't been drilling what we need to. That's why we just saw this week...
SCHIEFFER: But that's different, isn't it?
BACHMANN: Well, that's why, this week, it's ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the president doesn't have an energy policy.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think that was a good move?
BACHMANN: He has a politically correct environmental policy.
SCHIEFFER: Was that a good thing?
BACHMANN: It was a very bad move. It put, it has made the United States more vulnerable. There's only a limited amount of oil that we have in the Strategic Oil Reserve. It's there for emergencies. We do not, the emergency that we have is the fact that the president of the United States has failed to give the American people an energy policy. Here's the good news that a lot of Americans don't even realize. We are the number one energy-resource-rich nation in the world, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the president of the United States has unfortunately put American energy resources off limits. We need to open those up so we can bring down the price of gasoline at the pump. The president has it exactly wrong when it comes to energy.
SCHIEFFER: Just quickly, though, the original question I asked you is all of these statements that you have made that have later proven to be sort of true or totally false in some cases, what's your answer when people say that to you? Do you feel you have misled people?
BACHMANN: No, I haven't misled people at all. I think the question would be asked of President Obama, when you told the American people that, if we borrow $1 trillion from other countries and spend it on a stimulus, that we won't have unemployment go above 8 percent, and today, as we are sitting here, it's 9.1 percent and the economy is tanking – that is what's serious. That's a very serious statement that the president made. Did he mislead the American people? Not only did he mislead the American people, he's caused our economy to go down to depths that we haven't seen. That's what's serious.
SCHIEFFER: Again, I have to say, Congresswoman, I asked you a question and you, to my knowledge, I don't believe you answered it. But I want to thank you. I know you're very excited about what happened out in Iowa and we wish you the best. Hope to see you down the trail.
BACHMANN: Thank you, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.