Wallace to Bachmann: ‘Are you a flake?’

On “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace interviewed Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, and towards the very end of the discussion, the host broached a subject that much of the media establishment generally prefers to ignore.

Wallace noted that “the rap” on Bachmann is that she has “a history of questionable statements.” After noting just a couple of recent examples, Wallace paused, thought about how best to phrase the question, and asked the right-wing congresswoman, “Are you a flake?”

As you can see in the clip, Bachmann said she found the question “insulting” because she claims to be “a serious person.”

Wallace quickly clarified that this is what others might be saying about her. Bachmann responded by making the case for why she’s not crazy: she’s married, she has lots of children, she’s a lawyer, and she’s been a lawmaker.

The host added, “[D]o you recognize that now that you’re in the spotlight, in a way that you weren’t before, that you have to be careful and not say what some regard as flaky things?”

Bachmann replied, “Well, of course, a person has to be careful what statements that they make. I think that’s true. And I think now, there will be an opportunity to be able to speak fully on the issues. I look forward to that.”

Wallace apparently faced some criticism from the right over this, and he apologized, telling Fox News viewers, “I messed up. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any disrespect.” Bachmann is apparently still offended, adding yesterday afternoon, “I think that it’s insulting to insinuate that a candidate for president is less than serious.”

It’s a shame Wallace felt the need to apologize for this, because he accidentally asked a good question, even if he regrets it now. Societal norms apparently dictate that unhinged candidates who have no business running for president be shielded from such unpleasantness, but Michele Bachmann is arguably the most ridiculous person in Washington. She proudly embraces bizarre conspiracy theories; she routinely says crazy things on national television; she pretends to grasp public policies she doesn’t understand; and her worldview is comparable to someone who’s suffered a serious head trauma. Even as the Republican Party leaps off a right-wing cliff, Bachmann stands out for her unique brand of madness.

Given this, of course response hosts should ask whether she’s a serious person. Bachmann doesn’t deserve deference; she deserves ridicule. I thought “are you a flake” was actually a rather polite way of asking a legitimate question about an unqualified candidate.