Michele Bachmann, former Republican nominee, recently brought to the nation’s attention her concern that foreign agents are infiltrating the very highest levels of office in the US. This is her first major media moment since announcing application for dual citizenship (her husband is Swiss) and quickly retracting after embarrassingly negative outcry from her constituency. Signing a letter she made public, she claimed that the infiltration of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood was possibly underway and claimed that two prominent Muslims — Huma Abedin, the State Department aide to Hilary Clinton, and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — are tied to the organization.
Bachmann, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has used her position there to lend gravitas to her allegations. But the “ouch” moment came when the committee’s chairman told USA Today, “That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record.” Hmmm… What now, Michele?
Everybody ran for cover. Sen. John McCain denounced the accusation from the Senate floor and joined members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, shutting this news event down. Republican party officials hardly rushed to Bachmann’s defense, with her own state party Chairman “not available” for any elaboration. So far, Bachmann’s office has denied repeated followup media requests. Are they hoping this will simply go away?
The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for a mess that still needs to be cleared up. Saying nothing won’t wipe the slate.
The PR Takeaway: As mommie used to say: Clean up your mess! With Bachmann’s accusations described as loony by the media and her congressional colleagues on both sides (who says the government can’t agree?), it is clear this PR missile is only gaining speed in the wrong direction. One voter was quoted in the coverage as saying Bachmann is the “Only one telling the truth” but then again he also claimed that President Obama goes to Martha’s Vineyard to observe Ramadan….. Before Bachmann positions herself as an unequivocal fringe outsider, it might be time to retract, apologize, and simply say this was a mistake. Until she does, the issue is unlikely to go away.
What can Michele Bachmann do to save political face now? Give us your PR Verdict!