As a consequence of her surge in the polls, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is now facing the kind of scrutiny that comes with being a major presidential candidate.
ABC News reported Monday that a controversial clinic run by Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, and owned by the couple has suggested in counseling that prayer could help switch a patient’s sexual orientation (video below).
"[One counselor's] path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay," according to one patient, Andrew Ramirez, who said he sought treatment at the clinic in 2004, the ABC report said. "And God would forgive me if I were straight."
The issue of whether the Bachmanns use religious-based counseling in an effort to eradicate homosexuality in patients has dogged them for years. Marcus Bachmann has denied engaging in such efforts in the past.
The ABC report, which followed a similar story in the Nation, tracks the experience of another patient who went undercover at the Bachmann clinic in Lake Elmo, Minn. John Becker, a gay activist, writes that it became clear to him in several sessions that therapists at the clinic believe they can change a person’s sexual orientation.
“Based on my experiences at Bachmann & Associates, there can no longer be any doubt that Marcus Bachmann’s state- and federally-funded clinic endorses and practices reparative therapy aimed at changing a gay person’s sexual orientation, despite the fact that such 'therapy' is widely discredited by the scientific and medical communities,” Becker wrote.
ABC reported that Bachmann’s presidential campaign refused to comment on its report, but noted that Bachmann, when asked about the clinic, says she’s proud of the business and proves that she can create jobs.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported Monday about a trail of police reports that Bachmann and her staff have left in their wake, suggesting that the congresswoman repeatedly feels threatened.
According to the Herald: “She and her staff over the years have requested police protection or investigations when her house was egged; when protesters threw glitter on her or held up critical signs; when her campaign yard signs were stolen; when a man wrote an email perceived as a threat; and when she screamed that two women were holding her hostage 'against my will' in a city hall restroom.”
The restroom incident has acquired almost mythic status in political circles. It happened in 2005, when Bachmann was a Minnesota state senator. According to a report she later filed, two constituents cornered her in a bathroom in Scandia, Minn., to ask her about her views on, among other things, gay marriage.
Bachmann said they were blocking her from leaving. At one point, she began yelling, “Help me! Someone get me out of here!” The constituents said that Bachmann told them they were “holding me against my will.” No charges were ever brought.
Bachmann’s political rise in Minnesota was centered around social conservatism, particularly regarding the same-sex marriage issue — a theme that has been noticeably absent from her presidential campaign.
In a different vein, the Wall Street Journal on Monday took a look at Bachmann's oft-repeated assertion on the stump that she has worked as a tax attorney. Bachmann, the Journal reported, in fact worked as counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and represented the government against taxpayers, something, the article notes, might not sit well with the tea party faithful with whom Bachmann stands shoulder to shoulder.
Bachman has said said her tax work helped lead her to the conclusion that the U.S. should "deep-six" the tax code and do away with the estate tax.
The various reports come as Bachmann’s rivals for the GOP nomination are also beginning to sharpen their knives. Her fellow Minnesotan, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty went after Bachmann hard on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, saying the congresswoman’s record of accomplishment was “nonexistent.”
Pawlenty bashed Bachmann again Monday on Fox News, saying that being president was more than "just giving speeches at rallies" — a clear shot at Bachmann’s ability to play to conservative crowds.
In the Atlantic, writer Conor Friedersdorf says Pawlenty is right.
“In many ways, Bachmann is exceptionally qualified to run a good campaign. She is telegenic, charismatic, manages to be quick-witted at times, is wily in her attacks and counterattacks, raises a lot of money, and has mastered the dog-whistle. She rose to prominence by adeptly leveraging media appearances. That she did so despite having accomplished nothing of significance in public life is impressive,” he writes. “But it doesn't make her qualified to be president. She is manifestly unqualified to be president, as Republicans would quickly point out were someone with her resume running as a Democrat.”
Friedersdorf goes on to note that he believes that Bachmann’s supporters, who, he says, claimed a few years ago that then-Sen. Barack Obama was too inexperienced to be president, are being hypocritical.
"Is the partisan mind so powerful that they're now prepared to elevate someone based on the strength of her TV interviews and floor speeches?" he asks.
Here's the ABC News video:
Here's a video from 2004 of Bachmann speaking about a ballot initiative that would prohibit same-sex marriage in Minnesota: email@example.com