CNN Presses Michele Bachmann: Did You Intend to Make False Statements?

On Tuesday's American Morning, co-host Kiran Chetry reported that  Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is "prone to misstatements" and posed this question to her: "Did you mean to make false statements intentionally or were you just misspeaking?"

"PolitiFact.com, which is a Pulitzer Price winning fact-checking web site examined 26 statements that you made and they found only one to be fully true and 18 to be false," Chetry told Bachmann. "Several of them relating to your criticism of President Obama. Did you mean to make false statements intentionally or were you just misspeaking?"

The same network was far more generous to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 when he made a Memorial Day gaffe about fallen soldiers – "and I see many of them in the audience today." CNN, for whatever reason, cut out that brief part of the sentence from its ensuing coverage of his speech. And other networks have used PolitiFact to scrutinize Bachmann, but spared Obama similar treatment.

Anderson Cooper had led his Monday night news cast with a critical look at Bachmann's being a beneficiary of federal subsidies. However, he himself downplayed the news a bit by admitting the amount of money she received overall was "relatively small," and American Morning did not think it enough of a story to even mention in the interview of Bachmann.

However, the morning show co-host did ask Bachmann "Do you think that it's harder to prove you're serious because you're a woman?" The question is interesting considering the media has decidedly questioned Bachmann's seriousness as a candidate, and yet claims to be progressive when it comes to championing the rights of women. Was Chetry implying that the Tea Party is indeed more friendly to women than the media elite, or at least to conservative women?

A transcript of the two segments is as follows:

CNN
ANDERSON COOPER
6/27/11
10:00 p.m. EDT

ANDERSON COOPER: But we begin tonight, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest," with a candidate for president who's campaigning against big government, even though she and her family are personally benefitting from government money.

(...)

COOPER: Michele Bachmann speaking out against government bailouts, earmarks, and handouts. But, keeping her honest, it turns out she's not only benefitted personally from government money over the years, it seems she's also lobbied for it. There's her husband's counseling clinic, Bachmann and Associates. He's a psychologist whose clinic offers what they call Christian counseling. According to The Los Angeles Times, citing Minnesota state records, the clinic received nearly $30,000 in government money since 2006.

We did our own digging and learned that $24,000 of it came from a state grant financed totally by federal money. Then there's her late father-in-law's farm in Wisconsin in which she's a partner. We got this information from a government watchdog group called the Environmental Working Group. According to the EWG's farm subsidy database, the farm got more than a quarter million dollars between 1995 and 2008, mostly in federal corn and dairy subsidies. Congresswoman Bachmann was asked about both the clinic and the farm over the weekend.

(...)

COOPER: As for the clinic, according to The L.A. Times, yes, that money was earmarked for training employees, training which obviously benefits the clinic. As for not getting a penny from the farm, her own financial disclosure documents show that isn't so. They reveal between $32,000 and $105,000 of income between 2006 and 2009.

In public, meantime, she was railing against and voting against federal farm payments, voting no on a 2008 farm subsidy bill. Yet, the very next year, she wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praising government price support programs and asking for more, quote, "I would encourage you to take any additional steps necessary to prevent further deterioration of these critical industries," she writes, "such as making additional commodities purchases." In other words, more government intervention in the marketplace benefitting her constituents and herself while she rails against big government intervening in the marketplace. Bob Schieffer asked her about that contradiction yesterday on CBS's Face the Nation, and she dodged the question. Watch.

(...)

COOPER: So, John, relatively speaking, I guess a relatively small amount of government money over many years, but it does raise questions for a candidate who's made her name attacking big government spending.



CNN
AMERICAN MORNING
6/28/11
7:33 a.m. EDT

KIRAN CHETRY: So you officially announced yesterday. And you know, really there are two story lines about you out there right now. One is that you shot on to the national stage. You have a lot of enthusiastic supporters especially in the Tea Party.

The other, though, is that you're prone to misstatements and PolitiFact.com, which is a Pulitzer Price winning fact-checking web site examined 26 statements that you made and they found only one to be fully true and 18 to be false. Several of them relating to your criticism of President Obama. Did you mean to make false statements intentionally or were you just misspeaking?

Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-Minn.), Republican presidential candidate: Well, of course they were just misspeaking and that happens. People can make mistakes, and I wish I could be perfect every time I say something, but I can't. But one thing people know about me, is that I'm a substantive, serious person and I have a very strong background. I'm a former federal tax litigation attorney and I've spent considerable time in the U.S. Federal Tax Court, as well as being a successful small business owner. One thing I am is a businesswoman. I've got good sense on how to turn the economy around and how to create jobs. That's the number one issue in our economy. I want to bring that sensibility together with a small town common sense good values that I learned growing up in Waterloo, Iowa and in Minnesota. I want to take – I've taken that voice to the halls of Congress very successfully. Now I want to take that voice into the White House where it hasn't been heard for a long time.

CHETRY: And Congresswoman, I just want to ask you one question, because I don't think –

BACHMANN: I think that's why people are so excited.

CHETRY: No, I'm not doubting that you're serious or that you're smart at all, but are these misstatements becoming a distraction and how do you move on from that?

BACHMANN: Well you know, not really. Because people are most concerned about my economic message of positive change in the economy. We are going on the wrong track and people are concerned that their children won't do as well as they have. So people want to know, is there a person that I could trust who does know how to turn the economy, who can get me better wages and a better job? I understand how to do that. I've done that successfully before. And People want someone who can do that. They see President Obama has failed us, and President Obama said himself in February of 2009, if he can't turn the economy around by the third year of his presidency, that he should be a one term president. I agree with him. I think he should be a one-term president, and I think I can bring that expertise, that level of knowledge to be able to turn the economy around – that's exactly what I'm going to do.

CHETRY: I know that you are saying people want to focus on those things and I hear you, but today people are focusing on the fact that you said John Wayne was from Waterloo when John Wayne Gacey, the serial killer lived there for a time. You know instead of talking about the economic message, people are picking up on a gaffe.

BACHMANN: Well, again, John Wayne's parents first home was in Waterloo, Iowa, and he was from Iowa. And, of course the main point that I was making, are the sensibilities of John Wayne, which is patriotism, love of country, standing up for our nation, that positive enthusiasm is what America is all about and that's, of course, my main point.

CHETRY: I want to ask you about what Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace said to you. He asked you this weekend in an interview if you were a flake, and you handled it pretty well in my opinion. You kept your composure. I know that he's since apologized. You have since said in some subsequent interviews that you're a serious person, you said it to me right now. Do you think that it's harder to prove you're serious because you're a woman?

BACHMANN: You know, I think that people just need to know what a person's background is. And I'm introducing myself now to the American people so that they can know that I have a strong academic scholarly background, but more important, I have a real-life background. Where my husband and I who came from very low, middle income families worked our way through college, worked our way for everything that we have, and we were able to succeed in our business and raise a successful family with our 23 foster children, our five biological children. We started a charter school for at-risk children.

CHETRY: I do want to ask you about that as well. Because as a mother I marvel at the fact that a., you raised five kids. I'm busy juggling two, I don't know how you do it. On top of that, 23 foster children, you've said that to me before and I find that remarkable as a mother I often wonder how did you make that work? For example, how long did they live with you and were they all there around the same time or did you just have a lot of foster children over the years?

BACHMANN: We had a lot of foster children over the years, Kiran. And what we did is we had as many as four foster children at a time and then our five biological. So the greatest number we had were nine children. And it was a wonderful experience, I think, for us, for them, and we're so grateful that we could do it. They're really great kids. I encourage people to become foster parents and consider becoming foster parents.

CHETRY: Well, it was great to talk to you this morning, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Manchester, New Hampshire, this morning officially kicking off your campaign yesterday, thanks for your time this morning.

BACHMANN: Thanks. We'll do it again soon.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014