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Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Michele Bachmann—or Anyone Else

Posted on Jul 25, 2011
AP / Charlie Neibergall

By Bill Boyarsky

The Michele Bachmann migraine story appeared in time to potentially derail her candidacy just as the congresswoman was threatening to move to the head of the pack in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want her to win anything. She is a right-wing, religious-fundamentalist extremist who recklessly plays the race card, the anti-gay card and whatever other card that will heat up her tea party base. And, since she’s running for president, her health is public property. But I don’t like the way the story emerged. It’s a product of the incestuous relationship of political campaign managers and journalists, who are fond of calling themselves “guardians of democracy.”

The story first ran on the conservative website The Daily Caller on July 18 under the headline “Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged.” Not until the ninth paragraph does the story say Bachmann has migraines and takes medication for the condition. After the story appeared, Bachmann confirmed she suffered from migraines.

The story was a classic of underhanded politics. The sources were “a former aide, ... three people who worked closely with Bachmann, ... an adviser ... involved in her 2010 congressional campaign, ... sources who spoke to the Daily Caller ... because they are terrified about the impact the condition could have on Bachmann’s performance if she actually became president.” The Caller said it was granting these sources “anonymity because they were providing information only a select group of people could know at great professional risk.”

The story raced from The Daily Caller into mainstream television and print. ABC News was working on a Bachmann migraine exposé when the Caller published its own article. The story reached The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media and was a favored topic of cable talkers. Campaigning in Iowa, Bachmann, who had moved to first place in polling for next year’s Iowa caucuses, spent time answering questions about her migraines instead of her favorite right-wing issues.


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Reporters covering the Iowa campaign were curious about the origin of the story. The Des Moines Register reported that they asked former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who has been campaigning hard in Iowa but remains low in the polls, if his staff had anything to do with The Daily Caller story. Pawlenty, dancing around the question, said senior aides “indicated directly and unequivocally that they didn’t push the story.” One of his supporters is Ron Carey, Bachmann’s former chief of staff, who wrote in The Des Moines Register, “Having seen the two of them, up close and over a long period of time, it is clear to me that while Tim Pawlenty possesses the judgment, the demeanor, and the readiness to serve as president, Michele Bachmann decidedly does not.” Pawlenty told reporters “I haven’t spoken to him but the story’s not sourced to him, it’s sourced to her former staff.”

Anonymous sources are a major news business concern, as demonstrated in the New York Times policy on such sources: “The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation—as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under discussion.”

The right of reporters to protect the identities of sources is assured by law in much of the country. The Society of Professional Journalists noted that 49 states have laws or operate under court rulings that grant journalists and their sources the right to shield from the public their confidential dealings with sources. The so-called shield laws generally replicate the rights granted clergy and the people they counsel, lawyers and their clients, and psychological therapists and their clients.

Many reporters, including me, don’t like such sources. Part of a reporter’s skill is the ability to talk a reluctant source into using his or her name.

But laws and policies are no match for the high speed of a 21st century political campaign, as well as the 24-hour cable news shows and the Internet, with its countless websites and blogs.

Internet enterprises are desperate for visitors to read their pages. They need hot stories presented in a provocative manner. The Bachmann story in The Daily Caller was a winner with its headline words “incapacitates” and “drug use.” These words would generate much more traffic than “migraines.”

Reporters are under heavy pressure to produce such stories. In today’s tight media economy, reporters tend to be young, overworked, underpaid, inexperienced journalists grateful for their jobs and afraid of being fired. Their bosses, no doubt, are just as fearful. These journalists are easy marks for campaign hacks with a story to sell.

Such stories should contain a consumer’s warning: Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Ask yourselves where these stories come from. What are the sources’ motives? Smart readers should want to know.

The source of the migraine story will probably never be known. What is certain is that many more such stories will appear during the presidential campaign. When they do, the journalists who should be protecting democracy will actually be subverting it.

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, August 3, 2011 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

drbhelthi, usually I like your take but what’s this?

“...insulting the honor of the Presidency of the United States of America.”

What the F? There is no honor to that position and hasn’t been since, oh, about 1789. Well, no more than the neighborhood pimp but that would unnecessarily slander all pimps.

And, c’mon, Bachman is a evangelist nut-job that loves Israel more than her own kids.

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By drbhelthi, July 27, 2011 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Michele Bachmann—or Anyone

“She has deluded herself with a poisonous blend of religion,
demagoguery, and narcissism that would make the Pope sick.” ocjim

Gee whiz ! If this statement is accurate, installing her in the White
House would simply continue the poisonous blend of religion,
demagoguery, and narcissism, that the being using the name, “Barack
Hussein Obama” has injected into the American presidential scene.
(Even worse than Jr. Bush.)

Taking a closer look at the two persons, there are differences,
however. She has not spent two million dollars of someones money
covering up her birth records and college transcripts. Nor were her
college transcripts created or altered by C.I.A. operatives.  Also,
it appears that she is a genuinely qualified lawyer, not pulled into
the profession via the back door by her spouse.  Nor were her parents
affiliated with the C.I.A. Nor is she a citizen of Indonesia. Her
religious bent seems to be steady, not vascillating between the
Moslem belief and parallels of alleged Christianity, while
demonstrating behavior that perhaps is more readily classified under
“Satanism.”  That she would double the U.S. debt within thirty months
is very questionable. For sure, she would not hesitate to complete
the oath of office with her hand on the Bible. Nor would she make
deliberate errors repeating the oath of office, and then make jokes
about it, insulting the honor of the Presidency of the United States
of America.

Her non-C.I.A., solid American citizen background disqualifies her
for the support of either the Zionists of the Democrat party, or the
Hitler-types of the Republican party, such as is required to qualify
as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency.  Meanwhile, the USGOV shills
are using Murdoch tactics to demean her in public media, private
parties and wherever possible.  Even on Truthdig.

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By drbhelthi, July 27, 2011 at 1:17 am Link to this comment

Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Michele Bachmann—or Anyone Else

“She has deluded herself with a poisonous blend of religion,
demagoguery, and narcissism that would make the Pope sick.” ocjim

Forget about the Pope getting sick. He´s too busy covering the various
public appearances he is obliged to make in response to all the C.I.A.,
MOSSAD, MI6 and mafia-planned murders that are being carried out around
the world by their carefully-selected, mentally-deranged “loners.” 

Strange how these “individual loners” acquire the money necessary to
buy expensive arsenals of weapons, explosives, etc., and travel
variously around the world, on their pittance incomes. The Oklahoma
City “fertilizer fraud” worked well for the C.I.A. & F.B.I., suggesting
they are involved in the fertilizer debacle in Norway. 

The Pope has additional duties to carry out, such as saying an
occasional word about the sodomous priest-types scattered around Europe
and the U.S., covering for the mafia and Berlasconi, casting an eye
occasionally on the Vatican Bank money-laundering, and his new,
additional duty, assisting to advertise his brother´s fairy-tale book
about him, takes a little time and effort.
The Pope is a busy fellow, not remunerated on a 40-hr work week, and
has little time to “get sick.”

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By EJS, July 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Was there a “tight media economy” in 1999-2000, when the corporate mainstream media engaged in serial lies about Al Gore in painting him as a lying, unscrupulous bore, while they celebrated that execrable dissembler, the Kennebunkport Cowboy, as someone you’d love to sit down and have a beer with? If not, what’s their excuse?

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By ocjim, July 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

All anyone needs to do is listen to Michele Bachmann and her husband. You needn’t read anyone’s words or listen to their stories. You then will gather the truth: she is a dangerous, mentally dysfunctional, batshit opportunist who will do anything for power and attention. She has deluded herself with a poisonous blend of religion, demagoguery, and narcissism that would make the Pope sick.

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By cb, July 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Michele Bachmann and her husband are both very far out.  Not good for the U.S.  She is running on her own “gay agenda” platform.  We are closing schools, laying people off.  Family’s are being foreclosed on and being put out in the streets.  And all this Republican running for President and her husband can do is talk about is “praying away the gay”.  It is a good money maker for her, but we have bigger things to do, and I am hopping God has to.  If you or your church has the gay agenda on your mind, all the time you may need to set down and talk with someone.  We need to start looking at what is best for the country.  Not our own religion’s views, that blow in the wind.

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By D.R. Zing, July 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

Ask not what your country can do for you. But how you can get the hell out of it.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 26, 2011 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

Sorry if my sympathy for Michelle Bachmann is running a bit short. I’m saving for all the seniors on SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid she wants to drain of their last remaining assets and toss in the street.

So a lying, bat-shit-crazy, sleazy dirty-trickster finds herself the victims of another Re-thug sleazy dirty-trickster.  Oh, Boo-Hoo-Hoo! 

Rethugs and teabaggers team up REGULARLY to use such dirty tricks on Dems.  Remember “Palling around with terrorists”? or Ann Coulter’s and Saxby Chambliss claiming Max Cleland wasn’t a war hero?  “Swift Boating” became the standard term for putting out a false story in a thousand places to force John Kerry to deal with it.

You can’t even be a respectable sleazy sell-out to corporations these days, like Boehner and McConnell without being tarred as a “Tax-and-spend Liberal”.

Migraines CAN be incapacitating.  And every migraine sufferer must find what works for him/her.  What triggers them, and what helps.  Hell, in Italy they used to give sufferers expresso enemas (after cooling it down first, you maniacs! J/K) because it would get large amounts of caffeine into the system rapidly—and caffeine is an old tried-and-true migraine treatment.  It’s in Excedrin Migraine, and in “Cafergot” (caffeine and ergotamine), the Novartis med going back to when it was Sandoz.

While I’m not one to wish incapacitating migraines on anyone, or victimization by dirty tricks, in Mrs. Bachmann’s case I’ll be happy to consider making an exception.

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By TDoff, July 26, 2011 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

It’s not just the media. In a world where everything is fake, ersatz ‘news’ should not surprise. In a world in which most of us get our information from various forms of media (including the WWW) it is not surprising that much of what we ‘know’ is not true. In a world that uses language to communicate, and language has been distorted, purposely perverted, to the point where one cannot know it’s true meaning, it is only reasonable to believe that everything one sees and hears is/may be untrue.

Those who are unreasonable, on the other hand, the fanatics who believe and have faith in their personal fantasies, they ‘know’ with absolute certainty that their delusions are true and real and are to be acted upon without doubt or question. 

In a rational world, they would be secluded in order to protect themselves and others. In our dysfunctional society, the fanatics gather openly and ‘pray’ and make offerings to various ‘gods’, and then attempt to dispatch, one way or another, those who disbelieve or question their figments.

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By Anarcissie, July 26, 2011 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

There has been some talk that the idea of martyrdom appeals to the sort of people Bachman is trying to court, and being attacked for having a possibly debilitating illness would fill the bill nicely.  The theory seems like a long shot in more ways than one, however.

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By blueshift, July 26, 2011 at 5:36 am Link to this comment

@Frosty: it’s hard to believe the world is as sick, random or crazy as it appears to
be, so we impose a ‘logic’ on it, that in some cases can only be explained by
conspiracy theories, or an event having been faked or staged in some way. Cream
pies, moon landings, whatever. Actually, the world is sick, random, and crazy…
and that alone explains Ms. Bachmann. And a lot of other things.

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By SoTexGuy, July 26, 2011 at 4:36 am Link to this comment

Let me get this right.. The news is used to manipulate us. News sources and news outlets are interdependent, each enabling and supporting the other. Truth is only a sideshow in the news. Some news is not worth printing.


But not so much as the revelation that an unpredictable, manic-depressive, love-me, hate-me, LISTEN TO ME.. middle aged woman may have migraines and be medicated.


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By Frosty46, July 26, 2011 at 2:51 am Link to this comment

Could this story’s leakage be just another ploy by Bachmann
and her thugs to grandiose herself to the reich?  We all saw the
faked shaving cream pie stoppage of Rupert Murdoch’s trophy
Chinese wife (makes me sick to my stomach) that changed the
situation from the questioning of a criminal into “that poor old
dottering man was saved by his loving wife” clip that has been
played over and over again.  Just a thought————they folks do
know a bit about Goebbels magic.

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