NBC: Michele Bachmann Trying to Overcome Her 'Flame-Thrower Persona'

Reporting on Michele Bachmann officially entering the presidential race on Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell declared that "step one" for the Minnesota Congresswoman was "redefining [her] public image" by "turning down the flame-thrower persona."

Following O'Donnell's report and taped interview with Bachmann, co-host Ann Curry interviewed fellow Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Curry asked about Bachmann's chances: "She has been described as being too far outside the mainstream to be president. You know her. You're both from Minnesota. Do you agree with that or disagree with that?"

As evidence of Bachmann supposedly downplaying her "flame-thrower persona," O'Donnell noted how: "Her criticism of the President remains fierce, but more carefully worded." A clip was played of O'Donnell going after Bachmann's past statements on Obama: "You did say that the President had anti-American views. Was that a mistake?"

Moments later, O'Donnell proclaimed that, "Bachmann has taken heat for gaffes and errors on things like American history," and asked, "Have you been too careless about facts?"


Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's June 27 report:

7:00AM ET TEASE:

ANN CURRY: Game changer. Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann formally launches her campaign for the GOP's presidential nomination this morning as a new poll shows she's already a front-runner in Iowa. We'll hear from the Congresswoman herself.             

7:01AM ET TEASE:

WILLIE GEIST: Yeah, I got to tell you, a lot of eyes open in the political world over the weekend seeing that poll number for Michelle Bachmann in Iowa polling right near the top with Mitt Romney. Some people taking a second look at Michelle Bachmann here.
                    
ANN CURRY: No question about that. And also we have Tim Pawlenty, who is also in the race, in our studio this morning. So we'll ask him also about that.
    
7:04AM ET SEGMENT:
                                
WILLIE GEIST: Now to presidential politics. Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann formally enters the Republican field this morning. And she's returned to her Iowa roots to kick off the campaign. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is in Waterloo, Iowa. Kelly, good morning.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Willie. She was born here 55 years ago and Bachmann is hoping to generate some favorite daughter status. Kicking off her campaign here, she is getting some favorable buzz coming off of a Des Moines Register poll that shows Bachmann and Mitt Romney in a statistical tie at the top of the pack. Now, Bachmann has a knack for getting attention with her big personality, but now she wants voters to see her humble beginnings.

MICHELE BACHMANN: I am going to be the president. Nice to meet you.

O'DONNELL: On the street in Waterloo where her childhood began-

BACHMANN: This is where we lived when I was born.

O'DONNELL: -Michele Bachmann is all about her Iowa roots.

BACHMANN: We've been in Iowa for about seven generations.

O'DONNELL: Never mind that she represents Minnesota and this Tea Party conservative didn't start out Republican.

BACHMANN: I have been a Democrat and I understand the sensibilities of people who are Democrats and independents, but also Republicans.
O'DONNELL: Redefining Bachmann's public image is step one.

BACHMANN: I think it's important that people know that I'm not pigeon-holed in just one part of American society.

O'DONNELL: Candidate Bachmann is turning down the flame-thrower persona.

BACHMANN: I'm a business woman, as a former federal tax lawyer, I've seen the devastation of high taxes on businesses and farmers and individuals. I've seen that. I've lived it. I've practiced that in the courtroom.

O'DONNELL: Her criticism of the President remains fierce, but more carefully worded.

BACHMANN: I'm not questioning who Barack Obama is or whether he's a nice guy. I think he is a nice guy. But I think his solutions are wrong for America.

O'DONNELL: You did say that the President had anti-American views. Was that a mistake?

BACHMANN: I don't question the President's patriotism in any way. I think is he a patriotic individual.

O'DONNELL: Popular among evangelical Christians, Bachmann has said God told her to marry her husband of 33 years, and told her to enter politics – through prayer.

BACHMANN: It's just a normal part of life where we pray. And before we make any big decision, like many Americans, we just pray and say, 'Lord, what should I do? Which direction should I go?' And then try to make the decision – best decision from that.

O'DONNELL: A mother of five who often talks about her family taking in 23 foster children. Their identities kept private.

BACHMANN: We have never wanted to exploit them or their families. It's a very private matter for them and I'm sure that people in the media and people around the country can understand that.

O'DONNELL: Bachmann has taken heat for gaffes and errors on things like American history. Have you been too careless about facts?

BACHMANN: Well, there's times I've gotten things wrong and made misstatements, that's true. I think most people feel that they've done that.

O'DONNELL: Bachmann treads lightly when it comes to potential rival Sarah Palin.

BACHMANN: I think she's a lovely person. I don't mind the comparison at all. But I'm my own unique person. Just because we're two women that are looking at a presidential level of a race doesn't mean that we're identical.

O'DONNELL: And there's a little something brewing this morning, Willie. Bachmann was asked on Fox News Sunday by host Chris Wallace, 'Are you a flake?' She seemed upset about that. Wallace later apologized, said that he made a mistake in asking the question so bluntly. Her campaign calls it an insult and we're hearing see may not be willing to accept that apology. Willie.

GEIST: Yeah, that was quite a question. Kelly O'Donnell in Iowa for us this morning, thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC