Michele Bachmann on the set of Fox News Sunday, August 14, 2011. Photo: Are Tågvold Flaten.
Last Sunday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had a Sunday show blitz after her win in the Ames straw poll, appearing on all five Sunday shows. I was in Iowa covering the straw poll for amerikanskpolitikk.no – a Norwegian website about American politics. My hotel was only a few minutes’ drive away from the campus of Iowa State University, where Bachmann would be conducting most of her interviews. I showed up with my camera, hoping to take a few pictures, and to ask Bachmann a few questions. One of her body guards didn’t like me at all.
On Wednesday, Politico did a story on a recurring pattern, with the title “Michele Bachmann’s bouncers: Unnecessary roughness.“ I was interviewed in the article about my experience last Sunday morning (Slate and The Atlantic also did a short story). Read it, and come back.
As the Politico story reads, I forgot my credentials. Bachmann’s tall white-haired body guard with the goatee – named Tom – stepped up to me. “Are you a journalist?” “Nah, just here to take some pictures,” I answered. He and his colleagues kept checking me out, talking to each other on their earphones. I was the only guy there except the Fox News crew and Bachmann’s staff, but I couldn’t get close to Bachmann when she left the Fox News set, heading for the CNN set.
Still, I tagged along, hoping to snap some more pictures (like the one above), intrigued by how jumpy they were. “Wow, they really need her to stay on message today,” I thought to myself.
Anyways, over by the CNN set, the same body-guard – a former Secret Service-agent according to the Politico story – asked me: “Are you a blogger?” “Are you gonna be bloggin’?” I answered “no.” He walked away for a minute or two, then came back, and said: “This guy” – pointing in the direction of another body-guard in sunglasses – “will break your arm if you take one step closer.” … They weren’t kidding around.
The Bachmann campaign has denied that the security guard ever said anything like this. He did.
The whole scene struck me as strange. I mean, I had met Bachmann and talked to her press secretary Alice Stewart earlier that week. They’re nice people.
What could cause this behavior? A guy I know over at Fox News thinks she might be paranoid, and he and his colleagues have been talking about it for a while. He tells me that Bachmann has been like this for some period of time, even before she announced her candidacy and hired Alice Stewart as her press secretary. My Fox source knew Stewart back when she worked for Mike Huckabee in 2008, and she didn’t throw him any elbows back then. She’s done so working for Bachmann.
A few reporters didn’t want their names mentioned in the Politico report, some because they would like to continue to cover the Bachmann campaign, fearing the repercussions. That’s sad. I hope to cover her campaign next year, if she’s still in it. I’m not sure how “Tom” will react the next time he meets me though, if he still remembers me.