A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published a poorly researched, superficial, misleading, mostly puff piece on U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, titled “A G.O.P. agitator not named Palin” (Oct. 14, 2009) under the byline Monica Davey.
Bill Prendergast’s response at Minnesota Progressive Project is right on the mark. I republish his commentary here in its entirety, courtesy of the author.
By Bill Prendergast
Minnesota Progressive Project
October 15, 2009
Yea, up there on Olympus — they have finally taken notice of the national political phenomenon that is Michele Bachmann. Unfortunately, it looks like most of the piece was phoned in. King Banaian of NARN is quoted, but apparently the reporter didn’t read any of the editorials on Bachmann in the Twin Cities or Bachmann’s own Sixth District. Apparently they don’t believe in Lexis-Nexis at the NYT.
Bachmann opponent Tarryl Clark is quoted and manages to throw the fact of home foreclosures into this NYT article, tossing it over the transom. But a statement about Bachmann’s “great constituent service” goes unchallenged, even though it would seem to contradict the fact of the home foreclosures ([Bachmann's district ranks] highest in Minnesota, this year).
Nevertheless, I am used to having to climb over the daily wall of idiots reporting on this modern-day McCarthy — so come over the top with me this time, into the NYT, America’s “newspaper of record.”
Hmm … they got the fact that there’s a Bachmann action figure for sale, but not the fact that she called the President of the United States a tyrant and claimed he was leading the country into Marxism [link added].
“People are struggling to stay in their homes, and she’s off trying to be on Fox News,” said one of those Democrats, Tarryl L. Clark, a state senator.
Good for you, Clark. Monkey-wrenched that into the article; very nice.
Ms. Bachmann’s admirers point to her uncompromising, unvarnished stances against big spending, big government programs, tax increases and abortions. Her detractors moan that she opposes anything a Democrat says, and assert that she has transformed herself into a cable television gadfly.
This is the kind of reporting that makes Bachmann “possible.” Bachmann does not have an “uncompromising, unvarnished stance” against big spending [link added]. (She notoriously broke a public pledge not to seek or accept earmarks [link added], and is currently seeking more.)
Bachmann does not have an “uncompromising, unvarnished stance” against big government programs. (She was notorious lap dog supporter of President Bush and never took on his expansion of the prescription drug benefit; she failed to criticize any significant GOP initiatives or spending when in control of Congress.)
She never called on conservative Republicans in Washington to roll back any major government program — except for No Child Left Behind (and that’s because she views federal involvement in public education as a conspiracy to prepare our kids for socialism. It would have cost her her original “wingnut” base to embrace NCLB, though the wingnuts didn’t mind her embracing Bush — the man who implemented that particular part of the “master conspiracy.”)
She does not have an “uncompromising, unvarnished stance on tax increases.” As noted, at no stage of her career did she ever use her mountains of broadcast media time to criticize Republican congressional pork, during their twelve years of dominance. She was a loyal little GOP cheerleader. And as we all know: every deficit dollar the GOP spent — is a tax increase.
She does not have an “uncompromising, unvarnished stance on abortion.” I have posted video to YouTube of her announcing that she would grant the right to an abortion in cases of rape or incest.
And, contrary to what the NYT would have you believe, her detractors do not assert that she is “a cable television gadfly.” No one is quoted saying that in the piece, and in all my years of covering Bachmann I have never heard a detractor refer to her that way. Her detractors here in Minnesota and elsewhere refer to her as a nut [link added], a liar [link added], and a bigot. And a loon. And closeted theocrat. And there is ample evidence to justify all of those epithets, but very little of that evidence made its way into this NYT profile.
That’s the thing that kills me. A news organization with a top-shelf reputation and salaried reporters (and actual resources to conduct investigative journalism) goes out to cover America’s most notorious demagogue-in-office [link added] — and they miss the most basic and perhaps the most important fact about her career. The fact that her start in national politics and her continued success is largely due to her ties to the national evangelical right [link added].
This is the wall of idiots in the traditional media I was talking about earlier. That fact — that Bachmann is a protege of the national religious right, not just a penny-ante self-promoting McCarthy clone — is critical to understanding her career, largely undocumented, and therefore newsworthy. But the invincible laziness and ignorance of the most respected reporters in Minnesota and the United States means that that fact remains nearly as secret as Osama bin Laden’s home address.
New York Times: you’re not going to learn “who Michele Bachmann is” by talking to the guys in the Republican Party or NARN. Or talking to the cable teevee guys who book [Bachmann] on their talk shows.
The reporter notes that Rep. Bachmann answered questions for this profile via email — not in person. My guess that she did that because she was terrified at the thought of her possible treatment at the hands of the liberal NYT.
She need not have worried. This NYT profile is not a puff piece, exactly — but it misses the real Michele Bachmann story by miles, and includes some hilarious unchallenged howlers from Bachmann and her fans. It looks like most of it was written by cutting and pasting the latest Bachmann headlines from the Internet. It’s lazy reporting about a story that’s truly fascinating, if anyone would ever actually take the trouble to find out about it.
All you’re going to get out of this NYT piece are recycled Bachmann items that have been common knowledge in political circles for months, and the reporter’s claim that Bachmann is certainly ‘controversial.’ “No sh** [expletive deleted], Sherlock! You astound me, Holmes! However did you come to that startling conclusion? How much do they pay you and your editors a year, you mental titans?”
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 29, 2008
One year ago today, on the 11th day of my write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I posted my candidate information from the St. Cloud Times Voter Guide.
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