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Fox’s Chris Wallace Takes Heat For Asking Michele Bachmann “Are You A Flake?”

Last week Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace was lauded by the right for what they perceived as a take down of Daily Show host Jon Stewart. This week, he got vilified for asking Michele Bachmann a question:

As Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn) presidential candidacy grows more serious, and as her position in the Iowa polls continues to strengthen, she will, undoubtedly, be asked about some of the more provocative avowals she’s made in her past.

Sunday was — sort of — one of those moments. While Fox News Chris Wallace didn’t press the Minnesota Republican on any specific statement — whether it be that President Barack Obama was creating a gangster government, that anti-American sentiment existed in Congress, or that NATO air strikes had killed up to 30,000 civilians in Libya — he did touch on the broader point.

“Are you a flake?” he asked.

Bachmann seemed offended by the line of inquiry. “I think that would be insulting to say something like that because I’m a serious person,” she explained. She then went on to tout all the ways in which she was, indeed, serious.

“I’m 55 years old. I’ve been married 33 years,” she said. “I’m not only a lawyer, I have a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law from William and Mary. I’ve worked in serious scholarship … my husband and I have raised five kids, we’ve raised 23 foster children. We’ve applied ourselves to education reform. We started a charter school for at-risk kids. I’ve also been a state senator and member of the United States Congress for five years.”

“Do you recognize that now that you are in the spotlight in a way that you weren’t before that you have to be careful,” he said, with the tone of a professional counselor as opposed to an interviewer.

“Of course a person has to be careful with the statements they make,” replied Bachmann. “I think now will be an opportunity to speak fully on the issues. I look forward to that.”

The reaction from the right was immediate, and predictable. Jim Hoft called the question awful. William Jacobson said it was the beginning of the Palinization of Bachmann (ironically, of course, Palin works for the same network as Wallace). Ed Morrissey used the question as a opportunity to talk about Barack Obama’s verbal gaffes. On the left, Taylor Marsh trotted out the sexism canard. And, so, Chris Wallace found himself forced to apologize:

Here’s the video of the question itself, via Mediaite:


Judge for yourself, but I don’t see what’s wrong with Wallace’s question. Given Bachmann’s history, it’s perfectly legitimate and, actually, I thought she handled the question well. Apparently, though, any perceived insult of a conservative, even on Fox, is now verboten.

A wise man once said something that I think apples here — If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Tough questions are part of politics, and if you’re going to whine and complain every time one of your favored candidates gets asked a hard question then you really don’t belong in the arena.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. I just watched the whole interview a few minutes ago via TiVo delay and while I am not a Bachmann fan, I thought she comported herself quite well.

    I thought that the “flake” question is actually a legit question and that Bachmann handled it quite well. Further, this was a Fox News interview, after all, and was therefore asked in a friendly environment.

    In regards to “Palinization” my thought is this: Bachmann comports herself quite a bit better than does Palin. Bachmann, like her or not, can speak in full paragraphs (indeed, real sentences) and in such a way that gives one the impression she may have actually thought about some these issues prior to being asked about them. The contrast is striking.

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  2. @Steve,

    Indeed, it is striking. If Palin were to enter the race at this point the contrast between her and Bachmann would be blindingly obvious. One wonders how Palin’s base would react to that.

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  3. MBunge says:

    Asking a candidate “Are you a flake?” is nothing more than offering up a huge softball for any reasonably adroit debater to knock out of the park. It would be like Rachel Maddow asking President Obama “Are you a Muslim?” That anyone on the right would raise a stink about it and that Wallace would apologize for it is ridiculous.

    Mike

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    When you work for Pravda you don’t ask Brezhnev if he’s senile.

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  5. MBunge says:

    Anyway, “flake” isn’t even the right term of derision for someone like Bachman. It implies someone who is flightly and unserious. If Bachman is anything, she’s a crank.

    Mike

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  6. SJ Reidhead says:

    She is a flake with a track record to prove it. That’s the problem with the Glam Girls of the GOP. You cannot treat them like “regular” candidates. They must be handled with kid gloves and double standards. If this were asked of a man, no one would notice.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

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  7. Trumwill says:

    I don’t like the phrasing of the question. It should have been “What would you say to those who view you as a flake?” You’d get the same answer, but the question itself wouldn’t lend itself to this kind of response. It acknowledges that she is viewed as a flake, but without a question that puts the person being questioned on the defensive.

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  8. An Interested Party says:

    The sad thing about Bachmann is that she does have such impressive credentials while still making such ridiculous statements…

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  9. Pete says:

    The sad thing about Bachmann is that she does have such impressive credentials while still making such ridiculous statements…

    Just the opposite of Obama. Fine orator with junior college credentials.

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  10. Janis Gore says:

    Ms. Bachmann is an evangelical Christian who would prefer to impose her values on the country.

    She’s not a flake. I disagree with her and won’t vote for her. Period.

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  11. Just the opposite of Obama. Fine orator with junior college credentials.

    Do we have to start that nonsense again?

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  12. WR says:

    Congratulations to Pete, who has hit a new high in wingnut up-is-downism — Being president of the Harvard Law Review is “junior college.” No doubt flunking out of five colleges like Palin is the height of education.

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  13. Eric Florack says:

    Look, I have no doubt that Bachman will be Palinized.
    thing is, I don’t see this question of Chris Wallace was being sought. In a softball at worst , and are rather obvious attempt, I think, to give Bachman a chance to answer her moronic critics.

    When you work for Pravda you don’t ask Brezhnev if he’s senile.

    true, but you do tend to attack his opponents.

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  14. I have no doubt that Bachman will be Palinized.

    In all honesty, I am not even sure what “Palinized” means since, in my opinion, most of Palin’s problems aren’t media-generated but Palin-generated.

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  15. MarkedMan says:

    I happen to think Bachman is a flake, but the question is just an illustration of everything I hate about TV journalism. What was the purpose of this question anyway? It sounds ‘tough’ but would not generate any insight or reveal any information.

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  16. Ben Wolf says:

    Seems like a legitimate question. She’s not “I need to check my horoscope” flaky. She’s “God tells me how much sugar to put on my raisin bran” flaky. And a large minority of americans think just like her.

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  17. PJ says:

    The only Flake in Congress is Jeff.

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  18. MM says:

    It acknowledges that she is viewed as a flake, but without a question that puts the person being questioned on the defensive.

    Truly it’s too much to ask someone who wants to be President to answer a question without getting defensive.

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  19. anjin-san says:

    Look, I have no doubt that Bachman will be Palinized

    Indeed, she probably will self-destruct, but she won’t look as bad doing it, because she does have some actual talent, something Palin lacks.

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  20. Trumwill says:

    Truly it’s too much to ask someone who wants to be President to answer a question without getting defensive.

    There’s a difference between asking Barack Obama “Do you hate America?” and “What would you say to those who question your loyalty to this country?” One is a question-on-the-defensive, one is question designed to answer the accusations of critics.

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  21. anjin-san says:

    Do we have to start that nonsense again?

    You go to war with the army you have. This one fires pea-shooters, all the while thinking they are rocket launchers…

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  22. Rick Almeida says:

    Look, I have no doubt that Bachman will be Palinized.

    Rewarded beyond the dreams of avarice?

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  23. A voice from another precinct says:

    While I would agree that the she answered the question well, the particular things that she used to indicate that she is a serious person do not prove that she isn’t a flake, too. Lots of serious people with strong resumes and valuable service to their communities are also extreme to the point of flakiness about some issue or issues. The whole litany of statements:
    Obama creating a gangster government, members of Congress needing to take loyalty oaths, the Libya bombing statement, and (if I recall correctly) the $2 billion a day trip to India indicate that whatever other qualities she has, she is either pandering shamelessly to a hateful, racist populace in a way that would make even Huey Long cringe or she is a flake.

    Pick one…

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  24. Well, the question of whether she is a flake, or what the appropriate definition of “flake” might be is a wholly different discussion, yes?

    (And it is one that I suspect we will investigate over the next year or so…).

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  25. An Interested Party says:

    …to give Bachman a chance to answer her moronic critics.

    Oy yes, it is quite “moronic” to point out her foolish statements…

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  26. Hey Norm says:

    Calling her a flake is generous…what’s the problem?

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  27. Eric Florack says:

    Oy yes, it is quite “moronic” to point out her foolish statements…

    While ignoring those of the people who hold to the leftist mantra, right?

    Sorry no sale.

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  28. Rick Almeida says:

    Which mantra is that, Eric?

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  29. george says:

    As others have said, she’s a crank rather than a flake. A flake is a light weight whose opinions change with the wind. A crank is someone who’s opinions can’t be adjusted even by new evidence. Flakes are people who change their opinions with their horoscope. Cranks are people like birthers and truthers who hold to their opinion no matter how unsupportable they become.

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  30. Lit3Bolt says:

    I think conservatives do have legitimate beef in the way their female candidates are treated at times by the media. To be fair, the main figures I know about are Bachmann and Palin, and it’s true many of their media gaffes are self-inflicted, but this is such a ridiculous question that I cannot see Wallace asking of someone’s “stature” like say McCain.

    But then again, it could be strategery by the GOP since Bachmann and Palin seem to be only popular due to the politics of resentment. So this could be a more subtle kind of softball where even Fox News may be seen as part of “teh Emmm Essss Emmm,” thus generating more resentment on Bachmann’s behalf for the way she is “treated” by the media. Victimization! Even by FOX!

    Women GOP politicians (and female politicians in general, see Clinton, Hillary) have been cast as victims as an active part of political campaign strategy before this.

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  31. Derrick says:

    Women GOP politicians (and female politicians in general, see Clinton, Hillary) have been cast as victims as an active part of political campaign strategy before this.

    Listening to conservative bemoan the treatment of female politicians after years of calling Hillary, Pelosi and others all manner of sexist names and references is quite amusing.

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  32. ponce says:

    I wonder if Bachmann will retire from politics and steal Palin’s money making schemes if and when she loses the primary race?

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  33. Terrye says:

    I watched the interview and I did not think Wallace was going after Bachmann. In fact, I thought he was just giving her a chance to respond to the people who have treated her like a flake, a dingbat, whatever.

    Bachmann is no flake. I don’t always agree with her, but she is no dummie.

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  34. Beth Donovan says:

    I think it was an offensive question.

    I have not heard of anyone asking any of the men running for President of the United States if they are flakes. Wallace was pandering to those of you who are convinced that smart conservative women can’t be smart or serious.

    I think Bachmann was absolutely correct to respond as she did.

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  35. hey norm says:

    “…those of you who are convinced that smart conservative women can’t be smart or serious…”
    but…but…but…Bachmann has never been in danger of being called a smart conservative woman.

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  36. Rick DeMent says:

    I have not heard of anyone asking any of the men running for President of the United States if they are flakes.

    Well, to be fair … Trump didn’t run.

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  37. Davebo says:

    Surely we can all agree that she is indeed a flake based on the words that have come out of her mouth in public.

    But then Bithead may actually believe that The Lion King is gay propaganda, that we could end all unemployment by eliminating the minimum wage, or that Terri Schiavo was healthy at the time of her death.

    Then again, we’ve always known that Bit is a flake.

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  38. Barb Hartwell says:

    If he had asked that same question of a Democrat he would not have apologized. He and all other media outlets should be asking much tougher questions, like why is it minimum wage is too much for some people, and millions are too little for others. That is what I would like to know. I could care less how many kids she raised or what school she went to. I need to know what she stands for. Everyone knows you do not need to know everything in politics, but the ones that get my vote are the ones who apply the knowledge of their advisers and their principals of themselves for the better of our nation.

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  39. ponce says:

    I have not heard of anyone asking any of the men running for President of the United States if they are flakes.

    IIRC, Dennis Kucinich was asked a similar question a few times when he was running.

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  40. mattb says:

    The question really seems to be intended to be a softball — and a necessary one given Bachmann’s background on numerous issues. That said, the phrasing was beyond inartful and I agree that in general, one wouldn’t typically see that sort of question being asked of a major candidate in a given party (note: minor candidates get this sort of question all the time — especially those on the fringe).

    As to her handling, it was solid. As much as it pains me to say it, she is a far more serious and far more probable candidate than Palin could be or would be.

    Whereas there was never a chance of “Candidate” Palin having a real shot at the nomination, I can see how Bachmann could get the position. That said, it’s a possibility and not a probability (see Huckabee ’08 for why).

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  41. Wayne says:

    I thought it was an odd sounding question. One on one interviews usually have more courtesy boundaries. Many questions that people would like to ask are never ask in that scenerio. I thought Wallace ask it in about as respectful way as possible.

    I usually like to use the flip scenario to see if it was fair. Would it be appropriate in a one on one interview for the interviewer to ask Obama “are you’re a leaderless President” or “are you a socialist”?

    Using the standards I’ve seen so far yes. Many people think he is. They are legit questions. The” if you can’t stand the heat, get out kitchen” applies. They are softball questions that he should be able to hit out o the park.

    I suspect many would consider such questions insulting. Personally I could go either way as long as it is consistent.

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