Reporting from Washington — On a day that was intended to showcase her viability as a top-tier presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann spent Monday evening defending her veracity and explaining a gaffe that seemingly had her mixing up American icon John Wayne with a notorious serial killer.
Bachmann found a friendly place to deliver her side of the story: Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel. It became the forum where Bachmann and the news channel patched things up after a brief tiff spurred by Fox newsman Chris Wallace's asking Bachmann last weekend if she was a “flake.”
Wallace was pushing Bachmann about whether she stretches the truth, an issue that has begun to trail the Minnesota conservative as even she has showed steady improvement in the polls. Bachmann was asked a similar, but flake-free, question Sunday on CBS.
Wallace later apologized for the question on the air, but Bachmann on Monday called the insinuation “insulting.” With Hannity on Monday night, Bachmann said Wallace called her personally to say he was sorry.
“He did apologize and I am happy to accept his apology, and we are moving on,” Bachmann said. “I am a serious person and a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States.”
Bachmann spent Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, where she formally announced that she was running for the GOP presidential nomination. (She had said the same thing two weeks earlier on CNN, but that wasn’t considered an "official" rollout.) And the telegenic congresswoman appears to be surging in the state, whose caucuses are dominated by the kind of social conservatives who find Bachmann’s politics appealing.
But the day was marred slightly by a slip that quickly erupted into a media squall all its own. In an interview with Fox News’ Carl Cameron, Bachmann referred to Waterloo as the home of John Wayne. But Wayne, it was soon pointed out, wasn’t from Waterloo, but from Winterset, Iowa, a town more than 100 miles away.
John Wayne Gacy, the so-called “killer clown” who murdered more than 30 young men in Chicago during the 1970s and buried their bodies under his home, lived in Waterloo, where he started down his sordid criminal path with a sexual assault conviction.
Asked about the misstep by Hannity, Bachmann ignored (as any candidate would) the whole serial-killer thing, and simply reiterated that on John Wayne, the actor, she had gotten the state right.
“Clearly he was born in Iowa,” Bachmann said. “The point is John Wayne represents patriotism — and great American values.” (She also told CNN Tuesday that she "misspoke" about Wayne's hometown.)
Bachmann said she could take the heat, making a reference, for the second time in the program, to her “titanium spine.”
Hannity helped cushion the segment by playing a series of clips showing gaffes by President Obama, including when he mistakenly referred to “57 states” in the country and a 2010 slip when he appeared unable to correctly pronounce the military term “corpsman.”
“Do you know how many states we have in the United States of America?” Hannity asked Bachmann.
“Fifty,” she replied.
Bachmann will speak Tuesday at an event in South Carolina, another early primary state critical to her presidential hopes.