FACT CHECK: Bachmann Bomblets Raising Eyebrows
WASHINGTON (AP) — Michele Bachmann’s claim that she has “never gotten a penny” from a family farm that’s been subsidized by the government is at odds with her financial disclosure statements. They show tens of thousands in personal income from the operation.
And, on a less substantive note, she flubbed her hometown history when declaring “John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa,” and “that’s the kind of spirit that I have, too,” in running for president.
The actor was born nearly 150 miles away. It was the serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. who lived, for a time, in Waterloo.
Those were among the latest examples of how the Minnesota congresswoman has become one to watch — for inaccuracies as well as rising support — in the Republican presidential race.
Bachmann’s wildly off-base assertion last month that a NATO airstrike might have killed as many as 30,000 Libyan civilians, her misrepresentations of the health care law, misfires on other aspects of President Barack Obama’s record and historical inaccuracies have saddled her with a reputation for uttering populist jibes that don’t hold up. On Tuesday, she erred in describing John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father.
She announced her candidacy Monday in Iowa with a speech typical for someone joining the campaign. It laid out the broad themes of her candidacy and mostly avoided the Bachmann bomblets that have grabbed attention — and often fizzled under scrutiny — in the long lead-up.
The more the political season heats up, the more that exaggerations and sound-bite oversimplifications emanate from the Republicans going after Obama — and from the Democrats playing defense. Still, Bachmann’s record on this score is distinct.
Examining 24 of her statements, Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking service of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, found just one to be fully true and 17 to be false (seven of them “pants on fire” false). No other Republican candidate whose statements have been vigorously vetted matched that record of inaccuracy.
A look at some of her recent statements and how they compare with the facts:
BACHMANN: “The farm is my father-in-law’s farm. It’s not my husband and my farm. It’s my father-in-law’s farm. And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.” — On “Fox News Sunday.”
THE FACTS: In personal financial disclosure reports required annually from members of Congress, Bachmann reported that she holds an interest in a family farm in Independence, Wis., with her share worth between $100,000 and $250,000.
The farm, which was owned by her father-in-law, produced income for Bachmann of at least $32,500 and as much as $105,000 from 2006 through 2009, according to the reports she filed for that period. The farm also received federal crop and disaster subsidies, according to a database maintained by the Environmental Working Group. From 1995 through 2010, the farm got $259,332 in federal payments.
When asked about the subsidies and her income from the farm late last year, a spokesman for Bachmann said only that she wasn’t involved in decisions about the running of the farm.
Bachmann told The Associated Press on Monday that her husband became a trustee of the farm because his father had dementia before he died two years ago, and “oversees the legal entity.”
“Everything we do with those forms is in an abundance of caution,” she said, insisting she and her husband receive no farm income despite the forms reporting it.
BACHMANN: “If you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery.” — On ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
THE FACTS: John Quincy Adams was not a Founding Father. He was 9 when the Declaration of Independence was made and 20 when the Constitution was adopted. His father, John Adams, was the Revolutionary War figure and an architect of the declaration — and therefore a Founding Father. Both father and son became president. Bachmann was defending her earlier, inaccurate remark that the Founding Fathers had devoted themselves to ending slavery.
John Quincy Adams, president from 1825 to 1829, privately called slavery a “great and foul stain” but largely sidestepped the issue in office, according to “The Reader’s Companion to the American Presidency.” He tried to avoid antagonizing the South while reasoning that his push for a stronger central government would hasten slavery’s end over time.
BACHMANN: “Well what I want them to know is, just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” — Speaking to Fox News on Sunday.
Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, nearly three hours away, and moved to California in his childhood. John Wayne Gacy, convicted of killing 33 men and boys, was born in Chicago, moved to Waterloo to work in his father-in-law’s chicken restaurants and first ran afoul of the law there, sentenced to 10 years for sodomy. He began his killing spree after his release, and his return to Illinois.
Bachmann told CNN on Tuesday her comments “were just misspeaking” and that her main intent was to show she identified with Wayne’s patriotism.
BACHMANN: “Overnight we are hearing that potentially 10 to 30,000 people could have been killed in the strike.” — Criticizing Obama in May for the “foolish” U.S. intervention in Libya, and citing what she said were reports of a civilian death toll from a NATO strike as high as 30,000.
THE FACTS: The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, said in late April that U.S. officials have seen reports that 10,000 to 30,000 people may have died in Moammar Gadhafi’s crackdown on protesters and the fighting between rebels and pro-government forces, but it is hard to know if that is true. He was speaking about all casualties of the conflict; no one has attributed such a death toll to NATO bombing alone, much less to a single strike.
BACHMANN: “It’s ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the strategic oil reserve. … There’s only a limited amount of oil that we have in the strategic oil reserve. It’s there for emergencies.” — On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
THE FACTS: Obama did not empty all the oil from the strategic reserve, as Bachmann said. He approved the release of 30 million barrels, about 4 percent of the 727 million barrels stored in salt caverns along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. It’s true that the U.S. normally taps the reserve for more dire emergencies than exist today, and that exposes Obama to criticism that he acted for political gain. But the reserve has never been fuller; it held 707 million barrels when last tapped, after 2008 hurricanes.
BACHMANN: “One. That’s the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office.” — Comment to a conservative conference in Iowa in March.
THE FACTS: The Obama administration issued more than 200 new drilling permits before the Gulf oil spill alone. Over the past year, since new safety standards were imposed, the administration has issued more than 60 shallow-water drilling permits. Since the deep water moratorium was lifted in October, nine new wells have been approved.
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