The Independent Expenditure wing of the Republican National Congressional Committee (RNCC) is canceling an ad campaign for Rep. Michele Bachmann following her remark that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama may harbor “anti-American” views.
Bachmann’s campaign spokesman, Michelle Marston, told Newsmax on Thursday that the Minnesota Republican never counted on RNCC assistance anyway and is ready to move forward without it.
“We looked at the RNCC money as being icing on the cake, although certainly cake tastes better with icing,” Marston said.
The RNCC insists that it had no involvement in the Independent Expenditure unit’s decision to pull the Bachmann advertising.
On Oct. 17, after MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews badgered Bachmann repeated over whether liberals are “anti-American,” she said she is “very concerned that [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views.”
Matthews then asked whether other members of Congress also harbor anti-American views. That, Bachmann replied, would be a suitable topic for media investigation.
“What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look,” Bachmann told Matthews. “I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America, or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.”
Democrats and some commentators immediately pounced on that remark to suggest that Bachmann was seeking a Sen. Joe McCarthy-style investigation into the patriotism of Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, said Bachmann’s statements “dishonor the position she holds, and discredits her as a person."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stepped into the fray as well, posting an excerpt of the interview on its home page and calling the remarks a “new brand of McCarthyism.”
In the media firestorm that followed, close to $1 million in contributions poured into the campaign coffers of Elwyn Tinklenberg, Bachmann’s Democratic opponent for Minnesota’s 6th District. The Democratic committee also is shifting $1 million to advertise for Tinklenberg even as Republicans back out, Marston said.
Bachmann told “Human Events” editor John Gizzi: “Chris Matthews laid a trap and I walked into it. He injected the phrase ‘anti-American’ and I had been saying ‘liberal.’ If I had simply said ‘radical’ or ‘leftist’ or ‘liberal’ again, it would have been fine. Finally, I said ‘anti-American’ in response to him — and I regret it. But he blew it out of proportion and the liberal media whipped their constituency into a frenzy.”
Bachmann added, “This is how they get conservatives to shut up: by making examples out of outspoken conservatives like me.”
Several Republicans have distanced themselves from Bachmann’s remarks. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., told Minnesota Public Radio that her statements were “not comments I would have made.” Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty indicated that her remarks were inappropriate, although he added that mistakes are inevitable during a long campaign.
The faint-hearted response from some Republicans has not gone unnoticed in the Bachmann camp.
“There are some people who have been a little less robust in their support than we would have liked,” Marston told Newsmax.
Bachmann, whose lead in various polls has ranged from 4 to 11 points, may be gaining some supporters because of the controversy.
“People from all over the state are calling to say, ‘We want to send you money.’ People from other parts of the country are calling in asking, ‘What can I do to volunteer?’” Marston said.
Bachmann, who has a substantial campaign war chest of her own, is apparently accustomed to running against well-heeled opponents.
“She was outspent in 2006,” Marston said of the first-term congresswoman. “You cannot buy the kind of support this woman has. The grass roots are strong, they’re energetic, they want to see her back in Congress. Our opponent can have all the money he wants from California, Vermont, and Massachusetts.”
Historical footnote: A Senate subcommittee, not the media, conducted the notorious McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s. Indeed, a media investigation, as portrayed in the George Clooney film “Good Night, and Good Luck,” was credited with exposing McCarthy’s activities.
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