DES MOINES (Reuters) - Some of the wild statements uttered by Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann are coming back to haunt her now that the Tea Party favorite faces greater scrutiny as a top-tier 2012 candidate.
Bachmann, a conservative member of the House of Representatives, is on a roll due to rising poll numbers and a strong performance in a debate with Republican rivals.
She launched her campaign for the nomination on Monday, trying to position herself as the main challenger to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, to take on President Barack Obama.
But Bachmann’s nascent campaign will have to persuade her to show more discipline and try to stick to the facts.
In a television interview around the campaign launch, Bachmann said that iconic American movie star John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, where she herself was born.
“What I want them to know is just like John Wayne is from Waterloo, Iowa, that’s the spirit I have too,” she told Fox News.
Fact-checkers quickly pointed out that Wayne was born 150 miles away in Winterset, Iowa, but that serial killer John Wayne Gacy had made his home in Waterloo for a time.
Bachmann was asked about the gaffe on CNN on Tuesday.
“Well again, John Wayne’s parents’ first home was in Waterloo, Iowa, and he was from Iowa. And of course the main point that I was making are the sensibilities of John Wayne, which was patriotism, love of country, standing up for our nation, that positive enthusiasm of what America is all about,” she said.
Beyond John Wayne, there have been a host of other comments Bachmann has made recently that do not hold up to closer scrutiny, such as a comment about food prices made in New Hampshire earlier this month.
“If you threw a barbecue yesterday for the Memorial Day weekend, it was 29 percent more expensive than last year because Barack Obama’s policies have led to groceries going up 29 percent,” she said.
Political fact-checking website PolitiFact.com said the actual increase in food prices has been about 10 percent.
Bachmann’s gaffes and habit of being loose with facts have drawn comparison to fellow conservative and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who made a number of misstatements in the campaign and after.
Beyond gaffes, Bachmann is facing scrutiny elsewhere.
The Los Angeles Times said an examination of her record and finances showed that a counseling clinic run by her husband received nearly $30,000 from Minnesota and the federal government in the last five years.
The newspaper also reported a Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin, where she is listed as a partner, received about $260,000 in federal subsidies.
This from a candidate who argues vehemently on the need to cut government spending.
Bachmann told Fox News Sunday that she and her husband did not get the money to the clinic which she said was training funds for employees, and that the farm had belonged to her father-in-law and she and her husband “have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.”
Jennifer Duffy, a political expert at the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said Bachmann, after rising to near the top of the Republican 2012 field in a Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Republicans, will face greater scrutiny from the news media.
“She hasn’t really been vetted by the national press corps and that’s going to start happening, and it happens starting today,” she said.
Editing by Vicki Allen