Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she will not seek reelection will remove from the House of Representatives one of its more controversial and colorful characters.
The founder of the Tea Party caucus and a former Republican presidential candidate, Bachmann, in her eight years in Congress, has demonstrated a flair for drawing scrutiny from the media both for her staunch fiscal and social conservative views and for her often controversial, sometimes factually inaccurate statements, the way she would stand by them and her willingness to try to evade reporters on foot or by vehicle.
Even as she gained notoriety as a fire starter of sorts, Bachmann’s political career seemed stuck in the House. Bachmann’s moment did come in the 2012 presidential primary campaign. ABC News first reported she was considering a run. And she conducted the first interview of her campaign with ABC’s Jonathan Karl in Iowa. She went on to win the Iowa Straw Poll, which had been considered to be a key indicator of a candidate’s worth in the early caucus state. But her campaign flailed from there. She faced a touch challenge for reelection to the House after dropping out of the presidential race.
Related: Bachmann Faces Ethics Inquiry
So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the more notable quotes, better interviews and odd missteps of Michele Bachmann:
Wanted Media To Investigate Un-American Democrats
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. Republicans pulled advertising help from her reelection campaign, but she won anyway.
Facts: John Wayne, John Wayne Gacy and the Day Elvis Died
During her presidential campaign Bachmann wanted to talk about limiting the size and scope of government. But she often found herself talking about factual errors. She told a New Hampshire audience they should be proud of being the place where the first shots of the Revolutionary war rang out. Those actually occurred at Lexington and Concord in next-door Massachusetts. ”So I misplaced the battles Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it!” Bachmann later wrote on her Facebook page.
Then there was the time she wished Elvis happy birthday on the day he died. And in announcing her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in Waterloo, Iowa, she said she was born in the town just like tough guy actor John Wayne. It turned out that serial killer John Wayne Gacy hailed from Waterloo.
Factcheck.org published an annotated analysis of that particular Bachmann speech.
Founding Fathers “Worked Tirelessly” to Abolish Slavery
Bachmann’s comment in January 2011 that the United States’ founding fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery was less a factual blunder than a misinterpretation of history. George Stephanopoulos pushed her on that comment on Good Morning America in June of 2011.
“Earlier this year you said that the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence worked tirelessly to end slavery. Now with respect, Congresswoman, that’s just not true. Many of them, including Jefferson and Washington, were actually slaveholders and slavery didn’t end until the Civil War,” he said in asking her to clarify her remarks.
Take a look:
Bachmann: Well, you know, what’s marvelous is that in this country and under our constitution, we have the ability when we recognize that something is wrong to change it. And that’s what we did in our country. We changed it. We no longer have slavery. That’s a good thing. And what our Constitution has done for our nation is to give us the basis of freedom unparalleled in the rest of the world.
Stephanopoulos: I agree with that…
Bachmann: That’s what people want … they realize our government is taking away our freedom.
Stephanopoulos: But that’s not what you said. You said that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.
Bachmann: Well, 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….
Stephanopoulos: He wasn’t one of the Founding Fathers. He was a president, he was a Secretary of State, he was a member of Congress. You’re right, he did work to end slavery decades later. But so you are standing by this comment that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery?
Bachmann: Well, John Quincy Adams most certainly was a part of the Revolutionary War era. He was a young boy but he was actively involved.
During another Good Morning America appearance, Stephanopoulos showed Bachmann President Obama’s birth certificate and she said, at long last, after years of skepticism, that it should settle the issue of where the president was born.
‘Pray Away the Gay’ Therapy
Bachmann is a proud social conservative, but had denied that a clinic owned by her and her husband encouraged patients to re-orient from homosexuality through prayer. Bachmann’s clinic sparked controversy after an ABC News investigation in which former patients alleged they were encouraged to undergo religious conversion therapy to suppress gay urges. Read more from Brian Ross’s July 2011 investigation.
Watch this Nightline report:
On the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill, Bachmann can be difficult to pin down. Here’s how ABC’s Russell Goldman describes chasing her around Iowa as she tried to get into a campaign office without being hounded by Occupy Wall Street activists or by reporters:
It was New Year’s Eve day, just days before the primary. Bachmann, who once led in the polls, was at the bottom of the pack.
The wheels were coming off her campaign, and in a last-ditch publicity stunt she decided she would drive herself to a rally at her campaign headquarters, personally getting behind the wheel of a large black pickup truck that had been outfitted with speakers and used by the campaign along the trail.
ABC News and two print reporters had been with her that morning and made a caravan, following her to the event.
As Bachmann drove to the event, she learned that her headquarters had become the site of one of the largest Occupy protests of the campaign.
Ten people were in the process of being arrested, not exactly the backdrop one wants for making a campaign stop.
So Bachmann panicked. First she parked in a nearby lot waiting for the ruckus to die down.
“We’re getting ready to go. They’re trying to get everyone assembled. We’ll be there in about a minute,” she told ABC News from the driver’s seat.
Just as I was learning what was taking place at headquarters, Bachmann made a run for it.
In an effort to lose the press following her and buy some time, Bachmann booked it. Hitting the gas, she peeled out of the parking lot, almost running a red light and making a series of turns intended to lose the press following her.
Eventually, she drove up to the back of the headquarters and snuck in through a backdoor.
As police were still in front of the building making arrests, Bachmann held a rally inside as if nothing had happened.
Bachmann Said HPV Vaccine May Cause Mental Retardation
Bachmann criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for encouraging teens to get the HPV vaccine. But she caused an outcry in the medical community when the next day on the “Today” show she suggested the vaccine might cause “mental retardation.”
Bachmann described an encounter with a Florida woman after the debate with Perry: “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said. “There is no second chance for these little girls if there is any dangerous consequences to their bodies.”
Hurricane Irene Was God’s Warning to Politicians
It cost 56 lives and caused billions in damages in the United States, but a week after Hurricane Irene rocked the Gulf Coast, Bachmann told an audience in Iowa that it was also a warning from God that government should be smaller. Watch that moment here:
Should a Wife Be ‘Submissive’?
At the outset of her presidential campaign, a conservative columnist asked Bachmann if she thought a wife should be submissive to her husband. ABC’s Shushannah Walshe explains that controversy:
The question stemmed from a speech she gave in 2006 when she was running for Congress.
Bachmann told a church in Brooklyn Park, Minn., that she hated taxes, but went on to study tax law in order to be “submissive” to her husband.
“My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law, I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive.’ Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands,” Bachmann told the crowd at the Living Word Christian Center. “Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I thought God was calling me to do through my husband, and I finished that course of that study.”
Her response in 2011 to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York was broader but no less faithful. Bachmann said she loved her husband and was “so proud of him.”
“What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, Godly man and a great father, and he respects me as his wife,” she told York and the millions watching. “That’s how we operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other, and I’ve been so grateful that we’ve been able to build a home together.”
The teaching is rooted in the fifth chapter of Ephesians in the New Testament: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
The verse goes on to say, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”
Bachmann Had Dual Swiss-American Citizenship
Back in 2012 it came to light that Bachmann had dual citizenship with Switzerland. She requested the Swiss government rescind her dual citizenship in a May 2012 letter to the Swiss consulate. Bachmann, a former candidate in the Republican primary for president, stated that she has always been “100 percent committed to our United States Constitution and the United States of America” and noted that as the relative of various military personnel, she is “proud of my allegiance to the greatest nation the world has ever known.”
Bachmann had issued a separate statement insisting that she had only updated family documents and automatically received dual Swiss citizenship when she married her husband, Marcus, in 1978.
“This is a non-story,” she stated Wednesday when she confirmed she was a dual citizen. “Marcus is a dual American and Swiss citizen because he is the son of Swiss immigrants. As a family, we just recently updated our documents.”
Bachmann Constitution Classes
She might have get historical facts mixed up from time to time, but that didn’t stop Bachmann, a former tax attorney, from promising to school incoming members of Congress on the Constitution. She told ABC’s Rick Klein on election night 2010, when it was clear Republicans would take back the House, that she would teach weekly “Constitution classes.” She compared them to classes that football players take to bone up on plays before a game. Bachmann said she’d invite Supreme Court Justices as guest lecturers. Weekly classes never materialized. And the Tea Party caucus Bachmann founded has shrunk.
ABC’s Garrett Bruno contributed to this post.