Memento, Starring Michele Bachmann

The candidate has a trouble remembering her own bio--like whether she's a doctor or not

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It's funny when Michele Bachmann confuses John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy, or Elvis' birthday with the anniversary of his death. But while Bachmann's struggles with American history are amusing, her trouble nailing down the details of her own biography is a bit more disconcerting. Mother Jones' Tim Murphy reports that for years the Republican presidential candidate referred to herself as "Dr. Michele Bachmann." The problem? She's not a doctor. And that's not the only detail from her past that Bachmann has -- to put it charitably -- trouble remembering. It seems, at least, that some of the things Bachmann tells people about herself conflict with what reporters have found when fact-checking the statements.

Not a Doctor
Murphy reports, "Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Bachmann traveled [Minnesota] as an education activist, she went by 'Dr. Michele Bachmann,' even though she had never obtained nor sought the advanced degree that's a prerequisite for the title." Guinea Pig Kids, her 2002 movie opposing a state education law, identifies her as "Dr. Michele Bachmann." Bachmann worked with the activist group Maple River Education Coalition, which put out a news release celebrating her nomination as a Republican candidate for the state legislature in 2000 that said, "Dr. Bachmann herself, who arrived at her convention with no intention of running, was shocked by her victory."
Murphy explains why that's not okay:
"Dr. Bachmann" might have given the activist a bit more gravitas, but it was not an appropriate title. Bachmann received a J.D. -- the standard law school degree -- from Oral Roberts University, and an LL.M. in tax law from William & Mary in 1988. ... But while J.D. (juris doctor) has the word "doctor" in it, it is not accepted practice for J.D.'s to refer to themselves as "Dr."
No Post-Doctorate Degree
In June, Bachmann told Fox News, "I'm not only a lawyer, I have a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law from William and Mary... I work in serious scholarship." That's not a correct characterization of her education, either. Murphy writes, "The LL.M. does count as a post-doctoral degree, as Bachmann says, because it came after she had received a 'terminal degree' -- that is, a degree that can't be directly improved upon."
Not a Tax Litigation Attorney
Bachmann occasionally still refers to herself as a "tax litigation attorney" to show she understands how the federal government hurts average Americans with high taxes. But as Murphy notes, she's not currently authorized to practice law in Minnesota. Further, she was really more of a tax collector than a tax attorney, National Journal's Beth Reinhard and Lindsey Boerma report. As an employee of the IRS, Bachmann took a Native American activist to court for not paying taxes on $30,650 he earned with a non-profit group over three years.
Not Descended from a Long Line of Iowa Prairie Preachers
Lizza reports that Bachmann told a long tale about her family's roots in Iowa to a group of voters earlier this year. She said her family moved to Iowa in the 1850s -- after reading the Muskego Manifesto, a letter written by Norweigan settlers back to the home country -- during a harsh winter, terrible floods, and a plague of locusts. But they stuck it out and founded the first Lutheran church there. But that isn't entirely true. Bachmann's ancestors arrived 12 years after the letter manifesto was written, and besides, Muskego is in Wisconsin, not Iowa. There were already Lutheran churches in the area by the time her family arrived.  
Not a Devoted Family Reunion Attendee
This week Bachmann told Iowans she was late to an event because she was attending her annual family reunion in the state the same day. But her own mom told Politico's Ben Smith Bachmann was a no-show. And Bachmann's first cousin told NBC News that she hadn't seen the candidate at a family reunion in "about 10 years."
Not an Accidental Candidate
Bachmann likes to say she decided to challenge a more moderate Minnesota state legislator at the party's 2000 convention on the spur of the moment. She says her win was a surprise. But as The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reports, Bachmann had actually planned on making a bid for the senate seat for at least a year.
Not From a Swing District
Bachmann has said she represents a swing district, and, as Murphy reports, she's "stated that Minnesota Democrats squeezed her out of her old Senate district and put her in a new, liberal-leaning one -- but the districts were drawn up by the courts, and her new district actually leaned red."
Never in Charge of 23 Foster Kids at Once
In 2006, Bachmann told a Christian group, "We took 23 foster children into our home, and raised them, and launched them off into the world." Likewise, Bachmann told Politico in 2008, "Every weekend now when I go home, I will go to the grocery store, I'll buy food for the family. We have five kids and 23 foster kids that we raise. So I go to the grocery store and buy a lot of food." But Bachmann didn't have any foster kids in 2008 -- she took in her last child 10 years earlier. That also makes it sound like she had all those kids at once. But as The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, Bachmann was licensed to have up to three foster kids at once. Some of them were in her home for only a few months.
Earlier this month, Ron Carey, who spent six months as Bachmann's chief of staff last year, explained to The Wall Street Journal that the congresswoman's staffers were frustrated they couldn't get Bachmann to quit saying things that weren't true. For example, for months they asked her to stop saying President Obama had grown the federal debt more than all previous presidents put together. "It was simply not true, and yet I could never get her to drop that line," Carey told the Journal. The story does not note whether the staff had to help Bachmann try to remember her own biography.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.