A third former aide said that Bachmann had attacks every few weeks, sometimes causing her to go home in the middle of the day and miss appointments.
“She would routinely just disappear, wouldn’t answer her phone, wouldn’t respond to
e-mail, nothing,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “All of us [in the office] would just sit there and cover for her because we didn’t know what happened to her.”
The aide said that the decision to come forward was prompted not by support for another candidate but rather by concern for Bachmann’s overall readiness for the White House.
The issue has threatened to overshadow Bachmann’s economic message and her opposition to raising the nation’s debt limit.
Other controversies also have arisen in her five-week-old campaign. Last week, her husband, Marcus Bachmann, was forced to acknowledge after an undercover investigation by a gay rights group that his Christian-based counseling center provides a controversial therapy aimed at helping gay people change their sexual orientation.
Bachmann was criticized for signing a pledge drawn up by a socially conservative Iowa group that said black babies were more likely to be born into two-parent families under slavery than under President Obama. The criticism by African American groups intensified this week after she condemned a federal settlement with black farmers over past discriminatory practices.
Bachmann, a third-term congresswoman who has cultivated a reputation as a tea party outsider and Christian culture warrior, is in her first national campaign and has never run a statewide contest, which would have subjected her to more attention and vetting.
“She comes from an unapologetically religious family, and that will open up a lot of questions that get at her moral fiber and her personal life,” said Terry Holt, a Republican strategist who runs a public relations firm.
Still, Bachmann likes to boast about her “titanium spine.” This week on the campaign trail, she put it to the test. Before the campaign released the physician’s letter, one reporter asked about the migraines, and her press secretary stepped in front of Bachmann to block her from answering.
“Let me just answer this,” Bachmann said. “I gave a statement [Tuesday]. We were voting last night in Washington, D.C. We got here about one o’clock in the morning. I keep a very rigorous schedule. I feel great. And so we’ve answered that. . . . What I’m here to talk about is the debt ceiling.”
The doctor’s letter says that Bachmann’s headaches occur “with aura,” a sensation that signals a headache is about to begin.
She is taking two drugs, according to the letter. One, sumatriptan, is the original member of a family of drugs, the triptans, that transformed treatment of migraines two decades ago. It blocks the release of substances that cause the swelling of blood vessels and other steps in a cascade of events in the brain that lead to intense pain.
Patients can inject themselves with the drug for relief that can start within 10 minutes. Most prefer to take it in pill form and wait about a half-hour for it to start to work.The other drug, ondansetron, is used to prevent nausea and vomiting and is sometimes used by migraine sufferers.
Migraines are more common and more severe in women than in men. Worldwide, at least 324 million people suffer from them, according to the World Health Organization.
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Somashekhar reported from Washington. Staff writer David Brown in Washington contributed to this report.