Rep. Bachmann's Biggest Blunders

March 15, 2011 11:07 am ET

Thanks to her charged rhetoric and enthusiastic embrace of the Tea Party mantle, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has become such a political star that she's now considered a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination. However, in addition to her over-the-top criticism of President Obama, Bachmann has a long record of blatantly untrue statements that go far beyond the standard partisan talking points. From abortion clinics and death panels to slavery and the American Revolution, Bachmann just can't seem to get her facts straight. Political Correction has compiled some of Bachmann's biggest blunders below. 

"What I Love About New Hampshire..."

Rep. Bachmann:

What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history. [Bachmann Speech via RealClearPolitics, 3/12/11]

Lexington and Concord Are In Massachusetts. From RealClearPolitics:

In fact, the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord that marked the first military engagements of the American Revolution took place in Massachusetts. But Bachmann did not correct her error when she referenced the battles again later in her speech.

Bachmann's contorting of a basic fact about the fight for American independence was made all the more glaring because of her repeated references throughout her speech to the nation's founding. [RealClearPolitics, 3/12/11]

"$105 Billion Was Hidden In The Obamacare Legislation..."

Rep. Bachmann:

There was a Congressional Research Service report that just was issued in February, and we discovered that secretly, unbeknownst to members of Congress, over $105 billion was hidden in the Obamacare legislation to fund the implementation of Obamacare. This is something that wasn't known. This money was broken up, hidden in various parts of the bills. [Meet the Press, 3/6/11]

FactCheck: Bachmann's Claim Is "Way Off-Base." According to FactCheck.org: "Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Democrats 'secretly' hid $105 billion in health care spending is way off base. It's true that the new health care law contains many billions in future spending, but there was no secret about that." [FactCheck.org, 3/8/11]

  • Mandatory Funding "Rankled Republicans" Before Passage. From FactCheck.org: "The fact that the bill contained mandatory funding rankled Republicans at the time. On the eve of the health care debate in the Senate, the top-ranking Republican on the appropriations committee criticized the Democrats for bypassing the annual appropriations process in drafting the health care bill and other legislation. In afloor speech, Cochran made the same point Istook did in his report, warning that 'once a funding stream is made mandatory, it is extremely difficult to reduce or cut off the spending.'" [FactCheck.org, 3/8/11]

 WaPo: Bachmann's Complaint "Is Bordering On Ridiculous." According to the Washington Post:

This is bordering on ridiculous. The Congressional Budget Office, the official arbiter of congressional legislation, conducted extensive analyses of the health-care bill. Many of the specific programs identified in the CRS report were listed and examined in the CBO reports that were regularly issued as the legislation made its way through Congress. The CBO reporting also included estimates of the spending for these programs year by year. For complicated reasons, the numbers in the CRS report and the earlier CBO reports are not always exactly the same, but much of it was there in plain sight. [...]

She is correct that Congress already has appropriated some spending in future years, but her claim that this money was "hidden" does not have credibility. The money for these programs was clearly described and analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office before the legislation was voted into law. [Washington Post, 3/9/11, emphasis added]

PolitiFact: "The Spending Provisions Were In The Plain Language Of The Bill." As explained by PolitiFact.com: "The spending provisions were in the plain language of the bill; they did not vary dramatically from past congressional practice; and the bill was made public for 72 hours before the vote." [PolitiFact.com, 3/8/11]

"It Didn't Matter The Color Of Their Skin..."

Rep. Bachmann:

It didn't matter the color of their skin, it didn't matter their language, it didn't matter their economic status, it didn't matter whether they descended from known royalty or whether they were of a higher class or a lower class, it made no difference. Once you got here [to the United States] you were all the same. Isn't that remarkable? ...That is the greatness and essence of this nation. We know we were not perfect. We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country. [Bachmann Speech via Washington Post, 1/21/11]

WaPo: Bachmann's Comments Reveal "Ignorance About The Situation In Colonial America." According to the Washington Post:

[T]wo aspects of her comments have drawn attention--that "once you got here you were all the same" and that "the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." Both of those comments appear to indicate ignorance about the situation in colonial America. Certainly, the black men and women brought in chains on slave ships were not treated the same as colonialists once they landed on U.S. shores. As for the "founding fathers"--generally defined as someone who signed the Declaration of Independence or was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention--many prominent ones (such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington) were slave-owners. The U.S. constitution, until it was amended after the Civil War, defined African-Americans as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of counting population. [Washington Post, 1/28/11, emphasis added]

"The Debt That Barack Obama Accumulated In One Year..."

Rep. Bachmann:

From the time when George Washington took the presidency on his first day to the day George W. Bush left as president of the United States, all 43 presidents, if you take all of the debt combined of all of those 43 presidents, do you know that all of that debt is less than the debt that was accumulated by Barack Obama in one year? That is the level of debt and spending that we have engaged in. So this isn't hyperbole. This is facts. [Bachmann Speech via Washington Post, 1/21/11]

Bachmann's Allegation Is "Mathematically Impossible." According to the Washington Post:

Bachmann's accusation on the growth of debt under Obama is mathematically impossible. The White House website lists the historical tables by fiscal year, so as of Oct. 1, 2008--a few months before Bush left office--the nation's debt stood at almost $10 trillion ($9.986 trillion, to be exact.) A year later, nine months in Obama's term, the debt stood at $11.875 trillion. That's substantial increase, nearly $1.9 trillion, but nowhere near all of the debt piled up by all of the presidents preceding Obama. The debt ceiling is $14.3 trillion, and the United States will soon hit that more than two years into Obama's term, but that still won't make Bachmann right. [Washington Post, 1/28/11]

"75 Percent Of The Contributions Are For Democrats From Wall Street..."

Rep. Bachmann:

This was a pro-Wall Street bill. I voted against this bill. It was pro-Wall Street because Goldman Sachs wanted the bill passed. It was the big guys on Wall Street that wanted this financial services bill. So it's a great talking point from the Democrats saying that Republicans are for Wall Street, but if you look at the financial contributions for campaigns, overwhelmingly 75 percent of the contributions are for Democrats from Wall Street. Not Republicans. [Minnesota Public Radio debate, 10/28/10]

Wall Street Rewarded Republicans For Attempting To Derail Financial Reform. From the Wall Street Journal:

For the first time since 2004, the biggest Wall Street firms are now giving most of their campaign donations to Republicans.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of 12 large financial services companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. shows that they have collectively made $1.4 million in political donations, with 52% going to Republicans so far this year. That's a reversal from last year, according to the most recent round of fund-raising reports covering January, February and March. [...]

The change of allegiance comes as Congress closes in on legislation that would overhaul financial services regulations. Democrats back an aggressive bill that has been so far blocked in the Senate by Republicans.

Republicans have grown frustrated by the fact that Wall Street companies and employees continue to write big campaign checks to Democrats even as the GOP stands up for the industry on Capitol Hill. [Wall Street Journal, 4/27/10, emphasis added]

Center For Responsive Politics: Wall Street's "Shift Away From Democratic Candidates ... Coincides With Democrat-Driven Financial Reform Legislation." According to the Center for Responsive Politics:

Financial firms and the people who work for them are increasingly donating their political cash to Republicans, according to a preliminary Center for Responsive Politics analysis of second-quarter federal campaign finance data.

The Center's preliminary study indicates that political action committees and individuals associated with the broad finance, insurance and real estate sector have given more money to federal-level Republican interests during every month since December. The gap continued to grow during that time, reaching its widest point in June.

Such a shift away from Democratic candidates -- darlings of Wall Street interests for much of 2009 -- coincides with Democrat-driven financial reform legislation that President Barack Obama signed last month.

Contribution trends toward Republicans is particularly pronounced in the securities and investment industry, the Center finds. [OpenSecrets.org, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

The Center for Responsive Politics included the following graph to illustrate the shift in Wall Street donations from Democrats to Republicans:

[OpenSecrets.org, 8/10/10]

"16,500 IRS Agents..."

Rep. Bachmann:

Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which will put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's healthcare bill. [Bachmann State of the Union Response, 1/25/11]

FactCheck.org: "This Wildly Inaccurate Claim Started As An Inflated, Partisan Assertion." In a fact check of various Republican claims about thousands of new, armed IRS agents required by the Affordable Care Act, the non-partisan FactCheck.org wrote:

Q: Will the IRS hire 16,500 new agents to enforce the health care law?

A: No. The law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation...

This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS "agents" would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true. [FactCheck.org, 3/30/10 emphasis original]

Click here to read our complete fact check of Bachmann's "Tea Party Response" to the State of the Union.

"That's Why They're Called Death Panels..."

Rep. Bachmann:

[W]e're just reading this morning, Chris, that Harry Reid slipped in a provision that made it virtually impossible to repeal part of this legislation.  And it's the part dealing with the Medicare Advisory Board -- what many people have labeled the death panels -- because these unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and can't get in future health insurance policy.  That's why they're called death panels.  And in that particular part of the legislation, Harry Reid writes that we're not allowed to repeal these boards.  I think that may be subject to a constitutional attack. [The Glenn Beck Program, 12/22/09]

"Death Panels" Were PolitiFact's "Lie Of The Year." As PolitiFact.com wrote: "Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest. 'Death panels.' [...] The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural 'Lie of the Year.'" [PolitiFact.com, 12/18/09]

"President Obama's Chief Economic Adviser..."

Rep. Bachmann:

This will be a job killer, which is why President Obama's chief economic adviser Christina Romer has said, if this health care bill goes through, Pat, an additional 5.5 million jobs will be lost because small business will have to shed more jobs -- they can't afford to have the jobs because they have to pay more tax to the government. [The 700 Club, 12/3/11]

PolitiFact.com: Romer "Never Said" That Health Care Bill Would Cause 5.5 Million Job Losses. According to PolitiFact.com:

Obama's economic adviser - Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers - has never said that a tax in the health care bill would cost up to 5.5 million jobs. Republicans have used her 2007 research to develop a calculation for job losses for any type of tax increase . If you have a number for tax revenues generated, then this model will give you a number of jobs lost. But there are factors that make this type of analysis troublesome when it comes to the health care bill. Romer's 2007 research, for example, said that tax increases that fund spending for social programs tend to balance out, and economic growth stays on an even keel. Another problem is that the Republicans take tax increases that happen over 10 years and treat them as if they happen in one year, which inflates the numbers of jobs that might be lost. Finally, this particular Republican analysis includes more taxes than just the surtax of page 336; it also includes the employer mandates of page 313. We find this analysis to be problematic and contrary to how Obama's economic adviser said the model should work. [PolitiFact.com, 11/4/09, emphasis added]

Romer: "Health Care Reform Is An Economic Necessity." On June 2, 2009, White House economic adviser Christina Romer wrote, "Health care reform is more than a social imperative - it is an economic necessity. A new study by the President's Council of Economic Advisers demonstrates that the current American health care system is on an unsustainable path. Without health care reform, American workers and families will continue to experience eroding health care benefits and stagnating wages caused by the pressure of escalating health insurance premiums. And without reform, rising spending on Medicare and Medicaid will lead to massive and unsustainable Federal budget deficits." [Romer op-ed,Yahoo! News, 6/2/09]

Romer: Health Care Reform Will "Allow Lower Unemployment." On June 2, 2009, White House economic adviser Christina Romer wrote, "Controlling health care cost growth would allow lower unemployment in the short and medium run, without putting pressure on inflation. Employment could be 500,000 higher for a number of years." [Romer op-ed, Yahoo! News, 6/2/09]

"Someone's 13-Year-Old Daughter Could Walk Into A Sex Clinic..."

Rep. Bachmann:

 [T]he bill orders that these clinics protect patient privacy and student records.  What does that mean? It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving.  And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what's going to go on -- comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care -- is that abortion? Does that mean that someone's 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser. [House Floor Speech, 9/31/09]

PolitiFact Rates Claim That School-Based Clinics Would Provide Abortions "Pants On Fire." Responding to the Liberty Counsel's claim that a provision for school-based health clinics would allow abortions, PolitiFact.com wrote: "We see no language in the three main versions of the bill that would allow school-based clinics, which have a long history of providing basic health services to underprivileged students, to provide abortions. Nor would the clinics even be new - they have been around for three decades. So we rate the claim Pants on Fire!" [PolitiFact.com, 7/29/09, emphasis added]

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