Michele Bachmann :: A Retrospective of Controversy
Congressional Republican Michele Bachmann, whose run for the GOP slot on the 2012 presidential ticket generated controversy in GLBT circles because of her own apparent anti-gay record and her husband’s reported involvement with so-called "reparative therapy," has announced that she will not seek re-election when her current term ends.
The Associated Press reported that Bachmann made the announcement via a video posted at her website, and said that Bachmann denied that accusations relating to her 2012 campaign finances had anything to do with the development.
"This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign," the AP article quoted Bachmann as saying.
"In January, a former Bachmann aide filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission," the AP article noted, "claiming the candidate made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her 2012 presidential run.
"The aide, Peter Waldron, also accused Bachmann of other FEC violations," the article said.
Bachmann’s announcement prompted a semi-serious, and highly critical, review of her political career from various news sources.
Bachmann’s Minnesota district is heavily Republican and includes the Anoka-Hennepin school district, which in recent years saw a rash of students suicides, many of them thought to involve GLBT youth. The school district was the subject of national controversy due to a policy that some felt gagged staff and faculties at schools where anti-gay bullying took place.
The AP article suggested that even so, Bachmann’s departure from the 2014 race might boost the chances of the Republicans being able to hold on to her seat in the midterm elections.
"Without the polarizing Bachmann on the ticket, Republicans could have an easier time holding a district that leans more heavily in the GOP direction than any other in Minnesota," the article said.
Bachmann vowed to continue opposing President Obama’s agenda during her remaining year and a half in office, and indicated that her post-Congressional career would bring more of the same.
"There is no future option or opportunity, be it directly in the political arena or otherwise, that I won’t be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation," Bachmann said.
A Legacy of Controversy
Past examples of Bachmann’s work to "save and protect" the country include efforts to prevent same-sex couples from gaining access to civil marriage rights. Bachmann’s own state of Minnesota recently became one of the dozen states that now offers family parity under the law to gays and lesbians.
Bachmann on Crime, The Bible, and Massachusetts
In 2004, Bachmann pointed to the Bible as proof that national crime rates had some sort of direct tie to the advent of marriage equality in Massachusetts, Mother Jones Magazine noted in an article re-posted May 29 that surveyed Bachmann’s "Greatest Hits" as a politician so radical that members of her own party critiqued her. ("I don’t think I ever served with anybody who I mistrusted more, from either side of the aisle," the Mother Jones article recalled a former colleague in the Minnesota State Senate, Dean Johnson, saying of Bachmann.)
In its list of Bachmann’s controversial statements, Mother Jones and other news sources recalled specific instances in which she denied global warming and evolution, accused former President George W. Bush of "communist" style education policies, and displayed her economic acumen by suggesting that if minimum wage laws were rescinded, unemployment would be eradicated.
Bachmann on The Minimum Wage
"Literally, if we took away the minimum wage - if conceivably it was gone - we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level," Bachmann said in 2005.
Bachmann on Gay Enslavement
The previous year, Bachmann offered the public a glimpse into her medical and psychiatric competencies by declaring that gays suffer from a form of "enslavement" because of their sexuality, and claiming that "[A]lmost all, if not all, individuals who have gone into the [homosexual] lifestyle have been abused at one time in their life, either by a male or by a female."
Bachmann on Brainwashing America’s Youth
Bachmann also brought a dose of extreme-right paranoia to her public statements, as when, in 2009, she worried that the AmeriCorps program would be used to "brainwash" the country’s young.
"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service," Bachmann said. "And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."
Bachmann on Currency, Swine Flu, ACORN, the Census, and Healthcare in Japan
Bachmann also insinuated that plans were afoot to eradicate the dollar, replacing it with some form of global currency, and linked outbreaks of the swine flu to Democratic presidential administrations. Moreover, she publicly worried that census data would be collected by groups like ACORN and used to incarcerate American citizens. Similarly, she claimed that political dissidents in Japan were systematically denied health care, and suggested that under Obama’s health care reforms a similar fate could befall politically conservative Americans.
Bachmann on the IRS
Bachmann returned to worries of that stripe in the wake of recent misconduct by IRS employees who launched investigations of conservative groups during the last election cycle, joining other conservatives who have hinted that Obamacare could punish conservatives and warning that the legislation is meant to rely in part on the IRS for enforcement. Bachmann herself worked for the IRS between 1988 and 1993.
Bachmann on Bachmann
Strange beliefs have been a persistent, even pervasive, aspect of Bachmann’s career in public service. Her run for the presidential nomination was dogged by claims that her husband Marcus Bachmann, who ran Christian counseling services, promoted so-called "reparative therapy," a faith-based modality that purports to "cure" gays by turning them into heterosexuals. Mental health professionals view such claims with skepticism and warn that gay people undergoing the treatment may end up worse off than before they started.
Marcus Bachmann himself, who was said to be a primary adviser to his wife’s campaign, characterized gays as "barbarians" in need of "discipline" during an interview with a Christian radio program in 2010.
As for Michele Bachmann’s tough talk on smaller government and the evils of federal money being doled out through entitlement programs, both her husband’s clinic and a family farm raked in considerable sums of taxpayer money via just such programs. The receipt of those funds was in accordance with the law, but not, observers noted, with Bachmann’s stated ideology. Moreover, GLBT equality advocates expressed alarm that federal funds received by the Bachmanns’ clinic may have gone toward "reparative therapy" sessions.
Bachmann on Islam
More recently, Muslims became a talking point for Bachmann’s brand of fringe right rhetoric. A May 29 Think Progress article recalled how in 2012, "Bachmann sought to ’expose’ members of the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government.
"The totally unfounded witch hunt was essentially Bachmann’s personal indictment of one of then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s aides, Huma Abedin, but it also served to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry," the Think Progress article said. "Bachmann’s fellow party members came out against her, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slamming her on the Senate floor for her ’unwarranted and unfounded attack.’ "
Bachmann on HPV Vaccinations
Think Progress also noted that Bachmann had opposed vaccinations for the human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer. Some conservatives oppose the vaccinations because they fear that such medical precautions could encourage young people to become sexually promiscuous. Other parents, however, may have been influenced by Bachmann and others, who falsely claimed that the vaccine could cause a decrease in mental function.
Bachmann on Divine Retribution
Some news sources took a decidedly satirical view of Bachmann’s record. New York Magazine mocked her in a May 29 post as "the president of Crazyland," and said that by opting for retirement after 2014, the politician was "walking away at the top of her game." Like other publications, New York Magazine enumerated Michele Bachmann’s most outrageous claims, including declarations that President Obama has been intent upon "turning our country into a nation of slaves." Bachmann also embraced the idea, prevalent among conservative Christians, that any and all natural disasters are the work of an angry God displeased by our national policies:
"I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," the publication recalled Bachmann saying. "We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ’Are you going to start listening to me here?’ "
Bachmann and McCarthyism
Multiple news outlets also remarked on Bachmann’s insinuations that Democrats, including the president, were somehow "anti-American." ABC News recalled that "Bachmann first drew national attention in the waning days of the 2008 presidential campaign when she told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that then candidate Obama and his wife Michele held ’anti-American views.’ She encouraged the media to investigate which members of Congress are ’pro-America’ and which are ’anti-America.’
"The comments drew comparisons to 1950s McCarthyism," ABC News added. "Republicans pulled advertising help from her reelection campaign, but she won anyway."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.