“I'm happy to say I don't think that I've said anything inaccurate in any of the debates. And I'm extremely grateful for that. It's a high-profile stage and so I'm grateful that I don't think I've made a blunder.”

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

— Rep. Michele Bachmann, on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Nov. 25, 2011

In an interesting interview last Friday (which we missed as we recovered from Thanksgiving dinner), Bachmann acknowledged that she is sometimes truth-challenged.

“I wish I was perfection walking on air, but I'm not,” she told Steve Inskeep. “I've gotten things wrong. But I try very hard to get my facts right, and there's times when I've said things that are inaccurate and I regret that.”

But then she made the statement she said above. Nothing inaccurate in the debates? Let’s review the record.


The Facts

The Republican candidates for president have already held at least 10 full-fledged debates, and we have watched them all. Here are a few highlights of Bachmann’s performance during those sessions. During the debates, we don’t award Pinocchios unless we go back and write a fuller column on the statement. In that case, we will note whether she received any — or if a similar statement had already received Pinocchios.

New Hampshire debate, June 13, 2011
“The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has said that Obamacare will kill 800,000 jobs.” 


The CBO never said the health law was killing jobs. This is an extreme interpretation of an extrapolation of a note buried in a report. We had previously given this claim Three Pinocchios.


“Senior citizens get this more than any other segment of our population, because they know in Obamacare the president of the United States took away $500 billion — a half-trillion dollars — out of Medicare, shifted it to Obamacare to pay for younger people.”

Wrong again. The Medicare savings in the health-care law are aimed at providers, not seniors; meanwhile, seniors stand to benefit from aspects of the health-care law that Republicans want to repeal. On top of that, people younger than 55 might face significantly higher premiums under the GOP plan for Medicare. This was worth Two Pinocchios.


Iowa debate, Aug. 11, 2011
“In the last two months, I was leading on the issue of not increasing the debt ceiling.”

Bachmann does not play a leadership role in Congress and had virtually no involvement in the debt ceiling discussions, except rhetorically.

 “The Congress gave Barack Obama a blank check for $2.4 trillion. What did the American people get in return? Twenty-one billion [dollars] in illusory cuts.”

Bachmann’s reference to $21 billion in “illusory cuts” refers only to the impact on the deficit in the 2012 fiscal year. But over 10 years, the specific deficit reduction would amount to $917 billion.

Incidently, a blank check means there is no dollar amount. In any case, Congress has committed to spend much of this money under budgets passed in previous years. Lifting the debt ceiling merely means that the Treasury now has the authority to make good on bills that are coming due.

Reagan Library debate, Sept. 7, 2011
“Obamacare is killing jobs. We know that from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

She said it again! It’s still wrong.

“Obamacare took over one-sixth of the American economy. … If we fail to repeal Obamacare in 2012, it will be with us forever and it will be socialized medicine.”

 This is simply not true, no matter how often candidates say that the Obama health-care law represents socialized medicine or took over one-sixth of the economy. Socialized medicine is a single-payer system in which the government pays the bills and controls costs (much like Medicare.)

 “As a matter of fact, what he’s done is, he’s said in fact to Israel that they need to shrink back to their indefensible 1967 borders.”

President Obama never said this, and we had already given Bachmann Four Pinocchios when she claimed it the first time. The president did give a controversial speech in May, in which he said the de facto border of 1967 should be a starting point for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, with agreed swaps of territory. A few days later, he further clarified his comments to make clear he was not saying the lines should be Israel’s border. He was even thanked for his clarification by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a speech to Congress.

Tampa Debate, Sept. 12, 2011
“President Obama embedded $105,464,000,000 in Obamacare in postdated checks to implement this bill.”

Bachmann’s assertion of $105 billion “embedded” in the health-care law was another bogus claim for which she had previously earned four Pinocchios. We looked closely at her assertion in March and concluded that her charge 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. And since then, the Obama administration has issued a new release every time it spent some of the funds.

 Orlando Debate, Sept. 22, 2011
“I didn’t make that claim, nor did I make that statement. Immediately after the debate, a mother came up to me, and she was visibly shaken and heartbroken because of what her daughter had gone through, and so I only related what her story was.”

Bachmann was trying to spin her way out of a political problem because she had been attacked for saying the HPV vaccine was “potentially dangerous.” But the transcript shows that she had made that statement before she ever mentioned the distraught mother.


New Hampshire Debate, Oct. 11, 2011
“It was the federal government that pushed the subprime loans. It was the federal government that pushed the Community Reinvestment Act.”

 The notion that the CRA, approved nearly 35 years ago in 1977, had anything much to do with a lending crisis that flowered in 2007 and 2008 has been roundly discredited.


 CNBC Debate, Nov. 9, 2011

 “When you have 53 percent of Americans paying federal income taxes, but you have 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, you have a real problem.”

This “fact” ignores a key component of the federal tax system — payroll taxes. For many Americans, payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare are a much greater part of their tax burden than income taxes. When all federal tax liabilities are included, it is clear that only a small percentage pay no form of federal tax. Bachmann is proposing a solution — making everyone pay at least the cost of two Big Macs — for which there is no problem.

CNN National Security Debate, Nov. 22, 2011
 “This is one thing we know about Barack Obama: He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He’s outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.”


The American Civil Liberties Union has actually been critical of President Obama for continuing many Bush-era anti-terror policies. Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is also incorrect to say the CIA cannot interrogate terrorists.

The CIA is part of the High Value Interrogation Group, established by Obama in 2009, which brings “together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement.” The Washington Post reported this year that intelligence officials interrogated a suspect on a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of Somalia for more than two months before indicting him.

“Almost every decision that the president has made since he came in has been one to put the United States in a position of unilateral disarmament, including the most recent decision he made to cancel the Keystone pipeline.”

This is wrong. Obama did not cancel the Canadian oil pipeline. The State Department delayed the decision until after next year’s election, purportedly to consider alternative routes.

“It’s because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel. They’ve stated as recently as August — just before President Ahmadinejad came to the U.N. General Assembly, he said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the Earth. He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon, he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, he will use it against the United States of America.”

Bachmann overstated the case here. Iran appears to be pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Iranian officials have never said they have a nuclear weapon. In fact, they have repeatedly denied having such a program. Moreover, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never said he would use a nuclear weapon against Israel and in fact, as we examined recently, he may not have ever said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map. There is substantial dispute on whether this was actually a mistranslation of his words.

 The Pinocchio Test

 The record clearly shows that Bachmann has said many inaccurate statements during the debates, sometimes repeatedly.


Four Pinocchios

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