Well, here we go. Michele Bachmann’s impressive performance at Monday’s GOP Presidential debate, followed by her formal campaign launch, have kicked lefty smear merchants into gear, as evidenced by Michelle Goldberg’s latest piece in the Daily Beast. Titled “Bachmann’s Unrivaled Extremism,” the 2500-word article seeks yo derail Bachmann’s deliberately moderate turn on Monday by revealing how she’s irrationally homophobic, speaks in Christian dog-whistle language, is hypocritical for being a working mother, is obsessed with gays, tainted public education by forcing partisan wedges into her foster children’s school boards, throws her family under the bus without a second thought, and, oh yeah– fears gays.
I first noticed the article on Twitter because of Roger Ebert’s takeaway: “Bachmann thought she was being attacked by an ex-nun.” He’s referring to the piece’s opening anecdote; Bachmann constituent Pamela Arnold went to a forum held by the Congresswoman in April 2005, and Goldberg dutifully parrots Arnold’s version of the meeting’s aftermath. After Bachmann ended the meeting early (because people dared to ask her about gay marriage, obviously), Arnold and an unnamed former nun followed her into the bathroom.
As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. “Help!” she screamed. “Help! I’m being held against my will!”
Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that 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 Washington County attorney, however, declined to press charges, writing in a memo, “It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann.”
Notice there’s no “according to Palmer” sort of attribution here. This is exactlywhat happened, subjective descriptions and all. There’s absolutely zero possibility that Bachmann, herself only 5’2″, could have legitimately been intimidated by these two women, and they could have downplayed that in their statements to the police. There’s no admission that this is merely a she-said-she-said anecdote and that Goldberg chose to uncritically print the side of an obvious Bachmann detractor as gospel truth. At the very least, she does quote Bachmann’s statement to the police (albeit framing it as unhinged hysteria), but the link that points to the “police report” reveals just how professional the Daily Beast is about its journalism.
Instead of linking directly to a copy of the police report in question, the article links to… another Bachmann hit piece by the Minnesota Independent, which quotes the police report and references it with… a dead link. Goldberg defended her piece on Twitter, saying that she reviewed the police report herself and that her editors chose and inserted the questionable link. As I told her, I don’t doubt the veracity of the report, but when we’ve just seen Politico attribute a completely made-up quote to Sarah Palin, political publications must maintain strong editorial standards and take extra caution in validating their sources. We all know what a black eye this would have been if the editors of the Bigs committed a similar blunder. Goldberg assured me that she would inform her editors to replace the link, but as of two days later, the police report is still not substantiated by a link to an original document.