Monday, October 20th, 2014

Michele Bachmann and the Truth-O-Meter

We've been fact-checking Michele Bachmann since 2009.
We've been fact-checking Michele Bachmann since 2009.

PolitiFact's staff woke up to shocking news on Wednesday: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has decided not to run for re-election.

Bachmann, a tea party favorite, had a knack for making eyebrow-raising statements that the media loved to quote. Sometimes, though, those statements veered away from verifiable fact.

Take, for instance, our first fact-check of Bachmann, back in 2009. She issued a press release claiming that then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was considering abandoning the U.S. dollar. "Bachmann Demands Truth: Will Obama Administration Abandon Dollar for a Multi-National Currency?" We rated the claim False.

Bachmann later made opposing President Barack Obama's health care law one of her signature issues. She said the law banned private health insurance after a "date certain," even naming the page number of the bill that contained the clause. We checked page 92, though, and found Bachmann was wrong. Pants on Fire!

She had a remarkable streak: Her first 13 ratings were False or Pants on Fire.

Bachmann went on to compete in the 2012 Republican primary for president. She earned her first True rating for a statement she made during a 2011 debate that then-Sen. Obama "refused to raise the debt ceiling because he said President Bush had failed in leadership."

When a question was raised about her veracity, Bachmann cited our work during one of the many Republican presidential debates. "After the debate that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything I said was true," she said at a debate in Sioux City, Iowa, on Dec. 15, 2011.

Alas, she was totally wrong. In fact, the week before we had rated her statement that Mitt Romney instituted "socialized medicine" in Massachusetts as Pants on Fire.

Also during the presidential race, Bachmann made the surprising claim that a vaccine to protect against human papilloma virus, or HPV, caused mental retardation. Scientists said there was no evidence for that. We rated it False.

Her Truth-O-Meter scorecard (in percentage): True 8, Mostly True 7, Half True 10, Mostly False 14, False 36, Pants on Fire 25.

Among her other claims:

• "Scientists tell us that we could have a cure in 10 years for Alzheimer's" were it not for "overzealous regulators, excessive taxation and greedy litigators." Actually, scientists told us impediments include a lack of government funding and the complexity of the disease itself. Pants on Fire.

• Of every "three dollars in food stamps for the needy, seven dollars in salaries and pensions (go to) the bureaucrats who are supposed to be taking care of the poor." Evidence shows administrative costs for the food stamp program are less than 5 percent. Pants on Fire.

• "One. That's the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office." We actually found more than 200. Pants on Fire.

More recently, Bachmann returned to attacks on Obamacare, this time linking the law to scandals at the Internal Revenue Service. She made extended comments on Fox News, and we rated the specifics Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.

At this point, Bachmann's record on the Truth-O-Meter skews toward the red. We've rated 15 statements Pants on Fire, 21 False, 8 Mostly False, 6 Half True, 4 Mostly True and 5 True (see them all).

Bachmann isn't leaving immediately, however, so we will keep the Truth-O-Meter turned on.