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November 13, 2011 8:40 AM Bachmann v. CBS

By Steve Benen

CBS’s coverage of last night’s debate was not without hiccups. It was a 90-minute event, but the network didn’t air the last third for much of the country. Those watching online ran into trouble when, for many viewers, the stream stopped working.

But the real drama came later, when Michele Bachmann, who’s notorious for coming up with wild-eyed conspiracy theories anyway, said she has proof of CBS News’ “bias” against her.

The campaign of Representative Michele Bachmann took to Facebook Saturday night to accuse CBS News of “suppressing our conservative message.”

It posted on Mrs. Bachmann’s Facebook page what it said was an intercepted e-mail from John Dickerson, CBS News’s new political director, in which he replied to a suggestion from a colleague to have Mrs. Bachmann appear on a post-debate Webcast.

“Okay,” Mr. Dickerson wrote, “let’s keep it loose though since she’s not going to get many questions and she’s nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else.”

This, the Bachmann campaign insisted, represented “concrete evidence” that the “liberal” media is “manipulating” debates.

That was in the written message to campaign supporters. In South Carolina, Bachmann’s campaign manager was a little more animated, declaring in the spin room, “John Dickerson should be fired. He is a piece of shit. He is a fraud and he should be fired.”

Team Bachmann is nothing if not subtle.

So, does the campaign have a point? No, actually it doesn’t. Dickerson, whose reputation as a serious media professional is well deserved, explained in response to the Bachmann tirade, “Bachmann is at 4 percent in the polls and has been for a while. Other candidates aren’t. I sent an email based on that.”

There is no conspiracy here. As the pre-voting window closes, and the importance of the debates increases, it stands to reason news organizations are going to invest more time in candidates who stand a credible chance of winning the nomination. At this point in 2007, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich weren’t getting a lot of questions. For that matter, Jon Huntsman didn’t exactly enjoy the spotlight last night, either.

If Bachmann’s campaign hadn’t imploded in the late summer, I imagine Dickerson would have been more inclined to give her more airtime. If the CBS News political director was actually trying to “suppress” a “conservative message,” we wouldn’t have seen so many questions going to Romney, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich — none of whom, the last time I checked, is moderate.

Bachmann, an unhinged House member, always sees conspiracies lurking behind every corner. Remember the time the right-wing presidential candidate argued that the U.S. Census may lead to “internment camps”? How about when she warned of a “one-world currency” because she got confused about what a global reserve currency is? Or maybe the time she thought the “Lion King” was secretly gay propaganda? How about the time she said a bipartisan national service bill could lead to “re-education camps”?

This new one isn’t much better. It might help inspire some of her few remaining supporters to write Bachmann another check, but the complaints are pretty foolish.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • hells littlest angel on November 13, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Michele Bachmann is the only candidate standing up for a minority that the liberal media feels free to malign: Simpleton-Americans.

  • berttheclock on November 13, 2011 8:53 AM:

    Her rant might have caused her to forget Clinton ended AFDC in the '90s.

    But, by all means, let us have that great Chinese system of letting all pull themselves upwards by their own boot straps. Yeah, those Commies really do know something about how to run systems, eh, MB?

  • Danp on November 13, 2011 8:54 AM:

    “let’s keep it loose ...in the hopes that we can get someone else.”

    Let's be honest here. If this had been a Democratic debate, that "someone else" would have been Tony Blankley or John McCain, not a different Democrat. In fact, when is the last time Obama gave a speech that CBS and others didn't give airtime to a Republican response.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on November 13, 2011 9:09 AM:

    It might help inspire some of her few remaining supporters to write Bachmann another check, but the complaints are pretty foolish.

    The complaint is genius. The type of people making up the Gooper base eat that stuff up.

    OTOH, If Michelle is concerned about a media "repressing the conservative message" maybe Congress should have a conversation about reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

  • Sean Scallon on November 13, 2011 9:14 AM:

    It wasn't just Bachmann complaining about the lack of time, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman did as well.

    If we can agree eight candidates is eight candidates too many to have a substantive debate then those who put on the debates need to up the polling numbers required to participate in them so it is easier to allocate such time and perhaps give more of to the candidates for better answers.

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2011 9:19 AM:

    It looks like Bachmann's taking a page from Palin's "The Politics of Victimization" playbook.

    This should give her a nice little bump heading into Iowa.

  • stormskies on November 13, 2011 9:26 AM:

    Yep, and yet there she is today on David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory's "Meet the Propagandists" this morning .......... now why is that ? Four percent ...

  • berttheclock on November 13, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Page directly out of Newt's play book.

  • slappy magoo on November 13, 2011 9:51 AM:

    All the air time she got when she was a front runner is why she's at four percent now.

  • daveminnj on November 13, 2011 10:17 AM:

    i wonder...
    assume bachmann is toast-
    >how late can she wait before she can file for reelection?
    >would she be willing to go back to dullsville house after her temporary celebrity?
    >is it possible to flip her house seat?

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  • SYSPROG on November 13, 2011 10:55 AM:

    'Bachmann’s campaign manager was a little more animated, declaring in the spin room, “John Dickerson should be fired. He is a piece of shit. He is a fraud and he should be fired.”'

    WHO is the POS? I am sick of these self serving campaign managers who actually know BETTER, demanding someone should be 'fired'...They are fear mongering nimrods that truly don't care how this country goes as long as they get their soundbite. They are liars. Yes, Reince Preibus and GPS I'm talking to YOU.

  • jcricket on November 13, 2011 11:39 AM:

    Michele Bachmann should be happy she got the air time that she did, and happy she was even considered for the post-debate webcast.

    Really, she should have a more Christian, humble opinion of herself rather than having her campaign manager tell everyone how entitled she is.

    Oh, sorry - that should have been "Dominion Xianist". My bad.

  • zandru on November 13, 2011 2:01 PM:

    More Of 'The Rich Get Richer...'

    So the most popular candidates get the most air time? The least popular are left to dry up and blow away? How does that make any sense, in a democracy? (As opposed to a profitocracy, where ratings are golden.)

    Say what you will about the League of Women Voters, but when they host a candidate forum (by no means can any of these Q&A sessions be honestly termed a 'debate'), EVERYBODY gets to answer the same questions and EVERYBODY gets the same time to do it in. Moreover, EVERYBODY who is running is invited.

    That way, viewers can see ALL the candidates and have a basis for reasonable comparison. Whoever is 'popular' at the time may be replaced by someone who didn't have the initial money to make a big splash.

    Moreover - and this is that part that the media would never go with - questions are pre-screened to not be personal to a particular candidate, loaded, trivial, or flat-out stupid, like "Nachos or hot dogs?"

    per Captcha, "iDetest wouldn't". Exactly. Who wouldn't detest the sordid teevie "debate" format?

  • zandru on November 13, 2011 2:03 PM:

    More Of 'The Rich Get Richer...'

    So the most popular candidates get the most air time? The least popular are left to dry up and blow away? How does that make any sense, in a democracy? (As opposed to a profitocracy, where ratings are golden.)

    Say what you will about the League of Women Voters, but when they host a candidate forum (by no means can any of these Q&A sessions be honestly termed a 'debate'), EVERYBODY gets to answer the same questions and EVERYBODY gets the same time to do it in. Moreover, EVERYBODY who is running is invited.

    That way, viewers can see ALL the candidates and have a basis for reasonable comparison. Whoever is 'popular' at the time may be replaced by someone who didn't have the initial money to make a big splash.

    Moreover - and this is that part that the media would never go with - questions are pre-screened to not be personal to a particular candidate, loaded, trivial, or flat-out stupid, like "Nachos or hot dogs?"

    per Captcha, "iDetest wouldn't". Exactly. Who wouldn't detest the sordid teevie "debate" format?

  • Cha on November 13, 2011 2:17 PM:

    cbs is just as whoremedia as any of the others(lookin' at you Mark Knoller). There is no "liberal media". "Liberal media" is damn lie perpetuated by the whiny victimhood of con men and women who want it to be fox and teann all the time.

    That must have really gotten brain dead bachmann's goat since she was on the cover of newsweek and stupid cnn's answer to PBObama's SOTU. How far she has fallen..wallowing around in her own stupid shit.

    Check out the Sunday gasbag shows and see how many gopropaganists there are compared to those in the Democratic Party.

  • neil b on November 13, 2011 7:29 PM:

    @"Bachmann’s campaign manager was a little more animated, declaring in the spin room, “John Dickerson should be fired. He is a piece of shit. He is a fraud and he should be fired.”
    What kind of "Christian" hires a guy who talks like that as her campaign manager?

  • West of the Cascades on November 13, 2011 11:21 PM:

    I'm with Bachmann on this (I feel soiled for saying that) -- at this point, months before there's been a single vote cast, it's not the job of the organizations hosting the debates to pre-determine who gets more time to answer questions. From a practical standpoint, clearly there has to be some cut-off for participating at all (sorry Gary Johnson!), but once the candidates have made that cut, they should get equal time. Or, as Zandru points out, maybe there should be equal time and unlimited participation as the LOWV debates tended to encourage.

    On the other hand, as I'm writing this, I realize the whole debate format is hopelessly messed up anyway, by forcing 30 second and 60 second answers. No one should be able to answer most of the questions about national policy in 30 or 60 seconds. So we might as well let the media direct questions to the people at the top of the polls ... it's useless anyway.

    Although from a personal perspective I'd like to see Huntsman asked more questions (because he is sane and has intelligent things to say about most issues of policy) as well as Bachmann (because she is not sane, and hence highly entertaining).

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