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Fact-checking Michele Bachmann on 'Face the Nation'

Robert Farley
By Robert Farley June 27, 2011
Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan June 27, 2011
Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann is no stranger to PolitiFact. We've rated many of her provocative statements over the last few years. Bachmann, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota, is now running for president, and a poll over the weekend showed her in a tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses.

On Sunday June 26, 2011, Bachmann appeared on CBS' Face the Nation and was interviewed by journalist Bob Schieffer. Schieffer reviewed some of PolitiFact's findings and asked Bachmann about her record for inaccurate statements.

We've  reported two new fact-checks from Bachmann's interview. Bachmann also repeated several talking points we've already reviewed and found less than fully accurate, so we'll review those items as well.

From farm subsidies to limousines

Schieffer asked Bachmann about farm subsidies and whether they should be cut from the budget. Bachmann didn't answer the question directly. 

"I think everything needs to be on the table right now, every part of government," Bachmann said. "I'll tell you one thing that should be on the table, under Barack Obama the last two years, the number of federal limousines for bureaucrats has increased 73 percent, in two years. I can’t think of anything more reprehensible than seeing bureaucrats on their cell phones in the backs."

Her statement is based on a report from the Center for Public Integrity, but digging into the report shows some of the methodology is questionable. There's no standard definition for a limousine, and the General Services Administration, which compiled the numbers, said it wasn't sure they were accurate. Also, it's possible some of the "limousines" were ordered the Bush administration. We rated her statement Barely True. 

Facts about oil

At one point in the interview, Bachmann criticized President Obama's energy policy, or what she called the lack thereof. 

"It’s ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the president doesn’t have an energy policy," she said. 

Actually, the government only released 30 million barrels out of a total of 727 million barrels, or about 4 percent. So we rated that False.

Schieffer also asked her about a previous misstatement on oil, that the Obama administration has only issued one new drilling permit in all the time Obama has been in office. We rated that Pants on Fire, the actual number is well over 200. 

Jobs, the health care law and the stimulus

Bachmann also repeated some claims about joblessness, putting the blame on the Obama administration. In both cases, we found Bachmann was stretching the truth.

Bachmann said one of the problems with the economy is that business felt there was too much uncertainty to hire. One of the problems, she said, was the health care law that Obama signed into law last year. 

"They know that Obamacare is coming down the pike. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Obamacare will cost the economy 800,000 jobs," she said. Schieffer interrupted her here to say, "That is data that other people would question."

But Bachmann continued, "Well, that's the Congressional Budget Office. That's not Michele Bachmann. That's Congressional Budget Office figures saying that we have the potential of losing 800,000 jobs. Why in this economy would you put this very expensive, unwieldy program that's going to cost jobs when job creation is our real problem right now."

We looked at a similar statement she made just a few weeks ago. There could be the equivalent of 800,000 fewer workers, thanks to the federal health care law, according to the CBO, but not because employers wouldn't hire them. It's primarily because people now working just to retain health insurance would either reduce their hours or leave the job market altogether. Under the new law, these workers wouldn't need to have jobs to find affordable health care coverage. There could also be more economic productivity because of the health care law, the CBO said. We rated her statement Barely True.

Finally, Schieffer reviewed PolitiFact's analysis of her statements and asked her for a response about her statements that were proved factually wrong. "Do you feel you have misled people?"

"No, I haven't misled people at all," Bachmann answered. "I think the question would be asked of President Obama, when you told the American people that, if we borrow $1 trillion from other countries and spend it on a stimulus, that we won't have unemployment go above 8 percent, and today, as we are sitting here, it's 9.1 percent, and the economy is tanking -- that is what's serious. That's a very serious statement that the president made. Did he mislead the American people? Not only did he mislead the American people, he's caused our economy to go down to depths that we haven't seen. That's what's serious."

We looked at a similar statement from Bachmann back in January. To begin with, those words never literally came out of Obama's mouth. Rather, the basis for the claim is a single report prepared by economists in his administration. 

The report  included a chart projecting unemployment rates, both with and without the stimulus. Without the stimulus (the baseline), unemployment was projected to hit about 8.5 percent in 2009 and then continue rising to about 9 percent in 2010. With the stimulus, they predicted the unemployment rate would peak at just under 8 percent in 2009. As we all know now, the unemployment rate went higher. 

The administration now says that the economists simply set the baseline too low, that the economy was more precarious than they thought. At the time, the economists included plenty of disclaimers saying the predictions had "significant margins of error" and a higher degree of uncertainty due to a recession that is "unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity." In short, it was an economic projection with warnings of a high margin for error, not a take-it-to-the-bank pledge of an upper limit on unemployment. 

We rated her statement Barely True. 

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Fact-checking Michele Bachmann on 'Face the Nation'