George Stephanopoulos Badgers Michele Bachmann to Denounce Birthers, Defend President's Christianity

George Stephanopoulos on Thursday followed in the footsteps of other journalists who are lecturing Republicans on the need denounce birthers and declare Barack Obama a Christian. The co-anchor quizzed Michele Bachmann four times on the President's faith and citizenship.

He pestered, "You know, a sizable number of GOP primary voters are questioning President Obama's faith and citizenship. Can you just state very clearly that President Obama is a Christian and he is a citizen of the United States?"

Stephanopoulos, like NBC's David Gregory, found no answer sufficient. The ABC host snapped, "Do you believe it?...I'm just asking if you believe it?" The Republican representative insisted she takes "the President at his word" that he's a Christian. This still wasn't enough for Stephanopoulos.

He complained, "But you can't say that- you can't just sit there and declare the President's a citizen and he is a Christian?"

On Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory hectored House Majority Leader John Boehner about the birth certificate issue: "As the speaker of the House, as a leader, do you not think it's your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?"

In January, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams followed a similar line of attack.

The same journalists who subject Republicans to inquisitions over the birth certificate issue also indulged the conspiracy theories of filmmaker Michael Moore's 20004 movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. They certainly didn't press Democrats to distance themselves from the leftist director.

A transcript of the February 17 segment, which aired at 7:12am EST, follows:


STEPHANOPOULOS: Joining us now, that potential challenger you said could be the Tea Party's favorite. She's the leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, thanks for joining us this morning. So, Congresswoman, you've been to Iowa several times. You're heading to South Carolina this weekend. Another early contest. You're going to New Hampshire next month. I know you haven't made any decisions yet. But why are you interested in the presidency?

MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, I'm interested, primarily, in making sure for the next year. We're talking about the issues that the country is facing. And, so, I want to make sure in the midst of looking at all the individual candidates, which must be done, that we continue to focus on the issues of overspending, debt, national security. So, that's really what I'm doing. I'm trying to set the table, if you will, because these voters are vital in the early states. They're going to make a very important decision about our nominee. So, my focus, really, is to keep the voters focused on the issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those issues are being raised by all potential candidates. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich. So, what do you bring to this potential race that the others don't?

BACHMANN: Well, I think what I bring is being here in the front lines here in Washington D.C., where all of the decisions have been made over the past four years, that have radically changed our country. And for many Americans, they believe we're not going down the right track right now. So, I want to take that information out into these different early primary states. And to listen to people. I've been privileged to be part of the tea party movement. This has been the verve and the vibrancy we've seen of people getting engaged again. I want to take that perspective out to listen to people when I'm going out to the early primary states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the trip wire to get in to this race?  If Sarah Palin decides not to run, are you in?

BACHMANN: You know, I'm not there yet. I've not made a decision whether or not I'm going to engage. And, so, we'll see. I really want to talk to the people that are in the early primary states and listen to them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a question about the foreign policy. We've seen this revolution sweeping across Egypt and the Middle East, those protests in Bahrain this morning. If you were President right now, how would your approach differ from President Obama's?

BACHMANN: Well, I think there's some principles that I would focus on. Number one, my first question would be, what are the vital American interests in the region? Number two-

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are they?

BACHMANN: What would best be- What would best be done to secure the safety of the American people? I think, third, my interests would be, what is the long-term view of the Middle East? We're looking at a historic shift in instability in the Middle East region that isn't just one nation. But this is impacting a multiplicity of nations. So, I think we need to have a long-term perspective. And I think beyond that, this really underscores the need for high-quality level of intelligence. I'm privileged to sit on the Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence. We're secured with dealing with the nation's top classified secrets. I'm prohibited on going any farther on commenting on specifics in the matter. But, those are some of the principles I would be looking at.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is America's number one vital interest in the Middle East?

BACHMANN: Well, there are multiple issues that we have, and multiple interests that we have and multiple issues in the Middle East. But our safety and security of people in the United States is always number one.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on, now, to this controversy, the debate you had with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, over breast-feeding. She said, her encouraging of young African-american mothers to breast-feed to avoid obesity, for example, is another nanny state. What's your objection to that?

BACHMANN: Well, I'm a federal tax litigation attorney. That is my legal background and also my scholarly background. And my quarrel isn't necessarily with the whole topic. I've given birth to five children myself. I strongly believe in breast-feeding. I think what this points up again is that the tax code is used by government as social engineering. I spent years in the United States federal tax court seeing the difficult burden of the tax code in people's lives. And I think the federal government should stop social engineering. I would really prefer to see us scrap the tax code and find something that is simpler, fairer, flatter. People are in the process now of the hassle of filling out their income tax return. And it is a very unwieldily document. Most Americans have to go to professional preparers just to fill out a tax return. So, really, my quarrel is with the tax code and the great complexity that the tax code is for the average American.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, a sizable number of GOP primary voters are questioning President Obama's faith and citizenship. Can you just state very clearly that President Obama is a Christian and he is a citizen of the United States?

BACHMANN: Well, that isn't for me to state. That's for the President to state. And I think that-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe it?

BACHMANN: When the President makes his statements, I think they need to stand for their own.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, he has said it very clear. I'm just asking if you believe it?

BACHMANN: Well, I think we should take the President at his word.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can't say that- you can't just sit there and declare the President's a citizen and he is a Christian?

BACHMANN: You know, what I focus on today, George, is today is the two-year anniversary of the stimulus program, where we spent $1 trillion to make sure that unemployment won't go above eight percent. That's what I'm worried about because the people in the sixth district of Minnesota are concerned about job creation. And that's a lot more important than dealing with these other issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final, quick question. I'm just curious: We have a big day. Lady Gaga here in the studio. Are you a fan?

BACHMANN: [Laughs] You know, I don't really know that much about Lady Gaga. I hate to say it. I have a lot of children. But I don't know much about Lady Gaga.

— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org