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Michele Bachmann: Right town, wrong John Wayne

June 27, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • At left, a self-portrait painted by convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy. At right, acting legend John Wayne.
At left, a self-portrait painted by convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy.… (Chicago Tribune/Warner…)

Mixing up an American screen legend with a serial killer -- just another day on the campaign trail, right?

Michele Bachmann delivered her presidential announcement in Waterloo, Iowa, Monday because she was born there, but she inadvertently ended up reminding residents of a dark chapter in their town’s history.

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Bachmann, the Minnesota conservative, pointed out that John Wayne, the actor, was from Waterloo. “That’s the kind of spirit I have, too,” Bachmann said.

Small problem: John Wayne didn’t hail from Waterloo. The former Marion Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa, more than 100 miles to the south.

The most famous John Wayne from Waterloo is instead John Wayne Gacy, the infamous “killer clown” of Chicago, who was convicted of killing more than 30 young men in the 1970s and stashing their bodies in a crawlspace in his house.

Gacy and his family lived in Waterloo in the late '60s, and it was there that Gacy, then a local businessman, was convicted of sexual assault and sent to state prison. He was paroled two years later and moved to Chicago, where he soon began his killing spree.

Bachmann’s campaign later pointed out that the parents of John Wayne (the actor, not the serial killer, just to be crystal clear) lived in Waterloo for a time.

That hasn’t stopped the gaffe from turning into a media distraction on a day that had been carefully orchestrated to energize Bachmann's nascent presidential bid.

It also fuels what has become a running debate about Bachmann’s grasp of the facts. She was widely lampooned for suggesting earlier this year that the first shots of the Revolutionary War had been fired in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts.

Bachmann was confronted by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” Sunday about her veracity of her attacks on President Obama.

Schieffer noted how PolitiFact, a fact-checking website that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, analyzed 23 of Bachmann’s statements, finding just one to be “completely true.” Seven, Schieffer noted, were considered outright falsehoods.

“Do you feel you have misled people?” Schieffer asked Bachmann.

“No, I haven't misled people at all,” she replied.

Here’s the video of the Fox News interview:

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