Before getting into the details, we should pause to recognize this for the historic, benchmark moment it is. The first media generated controversy of Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. Depending on how far she is able to take her presidential aspirations, we'll be seeing replays of this process for the next 8 months to 8 years. So enjoy the spontaneity and freshness of this one while it lasts.
We in Minnesota are already grizzled veterans of this game. There is a group of new media and mainstream media in the state that hang on Bachmann's every word. They are ready to pounce on and exaggerate anything she says with less than 100% perfect articulation or specificity or comprehensiveness. Of course, no politician could withstand this level of scrutiny in their extemporaneous remarks. But only a select few are subjected to this seek and destroy game (Bachmann, Palin, any Republican President, Vice President or GOP nominee for President).
And even when Bachmann doesn't violate these ridiculous standards, her pack of trailing media will just make it up anyway.
In Minnesota, this has lead to a "boy who cried wolf" reaction to any story about Michele Bachmann in the press. You can safely assume it's wrong, or at least grossly exaggerated, and you can dismiss it, unless you care to independently assess the facts for yourself.
An example of this process was the Bachmann furor from a few months ago, after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. According to numerous media outlets, Bachmann had called for "armed revolution" and personally contributed to the toxic environment that caused the shooting, based on violent rhetoric she used in a radio interview. It was utter BS of course, but that didn't stop it from running worldwide, as documented in my series of non-award winning posts, Unarmed and Dangerous.
Today's controversy is of a similar nature. The headline and lead of the article from one of her local serial tormentors, MinnPost, neatly summarizes it:
Bachmann apparently confuses actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy
Send Paul Revere to Concord to tell the British: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann seems to have made another historical gaffe. She apparently confused actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The squeals of delight can be heard between the lines of this article. And it doesn't stop withlocal partisan websites. As but one example, here's a little periodical you may have heard of, the Los Angeles Times:
In an interview with Fox News’ Carl Cameron, Bachmann referred to Waterloo as the home of John Wayne. But Wayne, it was soon pointed out, wasn’t from Waterloo, but from Winterset, Iowa, a town more than 100 miles away.
John Wayne Gacy, the so-called “killer clown” who murdered more than 30 young men in Chicago during the 1970s and buried their bodies under his home, lived in Waterloo, where he started down his sordid criminal path with a sexual assault conviction.
If you care to take the time to look at what Michele Bachmann actually said, you'll find she never mentioned John Wayne Gacy. She probably has no idea where he "started down his sordid criminal path". She only talked about the real John Wayne, The Duke. And the absolute worst you can accuse her of is being moderately imprecise with regard to the geography of Iowa. As we now know from the legions of fact checkers assigned to this story, John Wayne was born and raised NOT in Waterloo, but in Winterset, about an hour and half down the road. I suppose the editors of the Rand McNally Road Atlas of the United States have permission to guffaw over this. But no one else does or would even care to. For 99.99999% of her intended audience, the point she was making is just as accurate whether she said Waterloo or Winterset. The Duke was from the heartland of Iowa and so is Michele Bachmann, and you can't take that away from her.
So how do you try to take that away from her? How about introducing a mass murderer into her quote and claiming she's "confused" about him and John Wayne.
As always with these distortions, the first mischaracterization starts to morph into more insidious versions that are always too good to check. Here's how CBS News jumped on the bandwagon:
As the Washington Times first noted, however, the actor John Wayne was born nearly 150 miles away in Winterset, Iowa. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. -- the serial killer -- was born in Waterloo.
Actually, no. Gacy was not born in Waterloo (and the Washington Times says nothing of the sort). According to Internet sources, Gacy was born in Chicago. (Yes, I had to look it up as I don't claim to be an independent Gacy expert, unlike most media fact checkers). He didn't move to Waterloo until his mid-twenties and only stayed a couple of years before getting sent to prison and then paroled back home to Chicago, where he began his murder spree in earnest.
So, upon further review, Gacy's connection to Waterloo is minor. He wasn't born there, you can't really say he is "from" there, and it's not common knowledge that he has a connection to the city. This makes the firestorm over Bachmann's comments even more absurd.
Michele Bachmann makes a campaign speech touting her background and qualifications to be president and the media ignores this in favor of exhuming Ed Gein and making that the national story. Why do they do this?
For the answer, I turn to John Nolte. He's done an outstanding job in analyzing the media's assault on Sarah Palin and the dynamics he identifies are exactly what is happening to Bachmann:
The idea is, at all costs, to undermine her seriousness and to create a relentless storm of nonsensical controversies around her that serve the leftist MSM’s partisan desires in three ways. First, by creating a narrative out of the ridiculous, the Governor is never allowed to get her message out. Second, it furthers the goal of turning her into a punchline. Finally, this Palin-Fury the MSM constantly brews up is meant to condition us to wince every time she pops her head out of the ground. Simply put, Palin’s MSM enemies want to exhaust us to the point where we start to wish she’d just go away.
Bachmann has successfully fought this off in Minnesota for the past six years or so. The national media brings a much larger world of hurt. Can she withstand that as well? That remains to be seen, but what is known is that we can expect much more of this to come.