She’s the gaffe-prone congresswoman who made waves last week for wondering aloud about the Democrats’ role in the swine-flu epidemic. But long before U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann became infamous for her outrageous public statements, she was just a gay-bashing, God-fearing pol from Minnesota who sometimes said and did things that caused even her fellow home-state public servants to call her assertions “psycho-talk.” From hiding in the bushes at a gay-rights rally to boasting about the marriageability of her 13-year-old daughter, Bachmann has the gift of gab that keeps on giving. Here are 12 of her greatest hits.
Her Divine Calling
Michele Bachmann has friends in high places. Pastor Mac Hammond of the Living World Christian Center, a mega-church in suburban Minneapolis, twice risked his church’s nonprofit status for Bachmann’s campaigns. When he offered her his pulpit during her first run for the House in 2006, she took the opportunity to talk about an even more powerful friend who had endorsed her candidacies: the Lord in Heaven. After God chose her husband for her and then told her she should “submit” to him (he, in turn, told her to study tax law), she says God “called me to run for the Minnesota Senate… God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, ‘What in the world would that be for?’ And my husband said, ‘You need to do this,’ and I wasn’t so sure. And we took three days, and we fasted and we prayed, and we said, ‘Lord, is this what you want? Is this your will?’ And long about the afternoon of day two, he made that calling sure.”
“False Imprisonment” by Lesbians
Shortly after sponsoring an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in April 2005, Bachmann attended a meeting at a community center in Scandia, Minnesota. At a certain point, witnesses heard a series of “piercing screams” before witnessing the congresswoman emerge from the restroom “in a crouching run” while crying, “I was being held against my will!” Bachmann filed a report with the county sheriff about two women “believed to be part of a LGBT group.” According to the report:
Bachmann said both women stood in front of the bathroom door and then one woman put her hand on top of the door and her other hand on the door handle and leaned her body weight toward the door to hold it shut. The other woman put her hand on the door as well. … [Bachmann said she] was absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her.
The women in question denied holding the door shut and said they were merely chatting with their local senator while waiting in line. Bachmann’s complaint was eventually dismissed.
Dr. Bachmann’s Christian Counseling Center
Perhaps Bachmann’s imprisonment scare in Scandia is connected to her husband’s Christian counseling center, Bachmann & Associates, which specializes in “men’s & women’s issues,” “abuse issues,” “spiritual issues,” and “shame.” Minneapolis’ City Pages magazine spoke to Minneapolis resident Curt Prins in 2006, who attended a Minnesota Pastors’ Summit where both Marcus and Michele Bachmann spoke:
For Marcus Bachmann's session, Prins says there were more than 100 people crammed in a room at Grace, and most of the presentation involved stereotypes of gays. "He was saying how homosexuality was a choice, that it was not genetics," Prins says. "He was claiming there was a high predominance of sexual abuse in the LGBT community. There was no research to back any of this up." (Marcus Bachmann refused to answer questions about the seminar.)
The climax of the presentation was when, according to Prins, Bachmann brought up "three ex-gays, like part of a PowerPoint presentation." The trio, two white men and a black woman, all testified that they had renounced their homosexuality. "One of them said, 'If I was born gay, then I'll have to be born again,'" Prins recalls. "The crowd went crazy."
”Listening to him," Prins surmises, "it becomes clear that he's had a huge impact on her. He might be the spearhead of this whole religious/gay issue."
Dr. Bachmann told City Pages that converting gay people is not the purpose of his practice. "Am I aware that the perception is out there? I can't comment on that." He continued, "If someone is interested in talking to us about their homosexuality, we are open to talking about that. But if someone comes in a homosexual and they want to stay homosexual, I don't have a problem with that."
Her Children’s Marriageability
In a three-page Christmas letter from 2003 acquired by a local blog, Bachmann waxed optimistic on her four children’s suitability as spouses. 13-year-old Elisa “was born to be the perfect wife… Future mates will have to apply as she does not advertise herself.” After marveling at the way her daughter Caroline “pulls her jeans over her 14-inch hips,” Bachmann noted that “King Henry had his six wives, and if our Caroline had been one of them, I think she would have been called Caroline the Vibrant.” She described her son, Harrison, as “utter perfection” and a “female fantasy treasure.” And her eldest son, Lucas, got a cheeky personal ad: “Chick magnate [sic] needs wife to put him through med school, clean house, pay bills and run his life. Must be willing to gamble against onslaught of socialized medicine diminishing return on investment.”
Equating Homosexuality with Pedophilia
Just last week Bachmann spoke on the House floor about the dangers of hate-crimes legislation. Protecting victims of homophobic crime, she explains, means protecting pedophiles:
[P]eople who are practicing pedophiles would be considered protected under this legislation, but not, I understand, veterans, not, I understand, pregnant women, not, I understand, 85-year-old grandmothers would be protected under this law. But who would be protected? A pedophile, someone who considers themselves gay, someone who considers themselves transgender, someone who considers themselves a cross-dresser? That is who is protected.
It wasn’t the first time Bachmann equated gays with child molesters. In 2004, she told a talk-radio host that same-sex marriage is dangerous because “it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children.”
Even Jesse Ventura Thinks She’s Wacky
Bachmann got her political start with Minnesota’s Maple River Education Coalition, of which former Governor Jesse Ventura once said, “That Maple River group, they think UFOs are landing next month. They think it’s some big government federal conspiracy!” This from a ex-professional wrestler who’s on the record as saying bipartisan America is “East Berlin” and that 9/11 was an inside job.
Saddam’s Palace: Just Like the Mall of America
Bachmann was among the congressional delegates who visited Iraq in July 2007. Whereas many of her peers came back with doubts about Bush’s war, Bachmann came back with a renewed sense of righteousness—and some groan-worthy Americanisms. She described touring one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces to the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "It's absolutely huge. I turned to my colleagues and said there's a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it's on that proportion.”
Partially Obscured at a Gay-Rights Rally
Another bizarre Bachmann moment caught on camera: the time she appears to have hidden behind a bush at a gay-rights rally. In 2005, at a protest of her proposed constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, a student activist caught sight of Bachmann and her posse crouched behind the shrubbery—and had the presence of mind to snap a few pictures, which he posted on his blog. Reached by the Minneapolis Star Tribune for comment, Bachmann pleaded sore feet. “I had high heels on and I just couldn’t stand anymore. I was not in the bushes.” Why was she at the rally? A rumor that “I was going to be a focus of the rally” felt “fairly personal,” she said.
Her Secret Knowledge of a Plan to Give Iraq to Iran
In 2007, Bachmann told Minnesota's St. Cloud Times newspaper that she had knowledge of an “agreement made” between Iraq and Iran: “They are going to get half of Iraq, and that is going to be a terrorist safe-haven zone where they can go ahead and bring about more attacks in the Middle East, and come against the United States.” This was why, she said, Iran wanted the U.S. to pull out of Iraq. Bachmann declined to specify how she learned of the partitioning plan, but noted that it was all part of “their natural cultural ties, the long history of Iran and Iraq wars, and regional security.” The St. Cloud Times posted the interview on their Web site on February 10, but the peculiar Iran-Iraq discourse didn’t find its way into the national press for almost two weeks.
Fears Fellow Congressman Keith Ellison Is a Terrorist. (Actually, He’s Just a Muslim)
In an interview with a San Francisco talk-radio station last month, Bachmann asserted that her colleague, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, consorts with known terrorists. Referencing a group of imams arrested in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport three years ago, she explained, “The imams, the imams, were actually attending, ah, Congressman Keith Ellison’s victory celebration, when he won as a member of Congress.” She went on to talk about terror-related accusations that had been made against the six imams, not mentioning that these allegations had since been disproven. (Nervous airline passengers had apparently misinterpreted the imams’ praying as reminiscent of the 9/11 hijackers’ “patterns.”) Furthermore, the imams were in Minnesota to attend an imam conference—not an Ellison victory party. On MSNBC, Ellison fired back: “This is not true. I think it could even be psycho-talk.” A Bachmann spokesman defended her statement while admitting that “the details may be a little rough.”
Her Gay Stepsister
A surprise visitor came to one of Bachmann’s anti-gay speeches in the Minnesota Capitol: her stepsister Helen LaFave, who attended the event with her same-sex partner of 20 years. At the time, Bachmann claimed she had polled her family members on the gay-marriage ban, and that they’d voted 6-3 in the ban’s favor. But two siblings say she never discussed the issue with them. Stepbrother Michael LaFave notes that, though he’s “proud” of Bachmann, he wishes she “would have been honest. Dick Cheney had the good sense to do that with his daughter…. He knew how much it would hurt his daughter.” Michele Bachmann, more ruthless than Dick Cheney? Perhaps she took it as a compliment.
The Bush Hug That Wouldn’t End
Remember that freshman representative who was so elated to meet President Bush during a State of the Union address that she squeezed his hand, arm, and shoulder for more than 30 seconds, grinning wildly at the camera and clinging to him “like a teenage girl meeting Justin Timberlake”? That’s our belle, Michele.
Maureen O'Connor is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast.