Bachmann v. CBS

CBS’s coverage of last night’s debate was not without hiccups. It was a 90-minute event, but the network didn’t air the last third for much of the country. Those watching online ran into trouble when, for many viewers, the stream stopped working.

But the real drama came later, when Michele Bachmann, who’s notorious for coming up with wild-eyed conspiracy theories anyway, said she has proof of CBS News’ “bias” against her.

The campaign of Representative Michele Bachmann took to Facebook Saturday night to accuse CBS News of “suppressing our conservative message.”

It posted on Mrs. Bachmann’s Facebook page what it said was an intercepted e-mail from John Dickerson, CBS News’s new political director, in which he replied to a suggestion from a colleague to have Mrs. Bachmann appear on a post-debate Webcast.

“Okay,” Mr. Dickerson wrote, “let’s keep it loose though since she’s not going to get many questions and she’s nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else.”

This, the Bachmann campaign insisted, represented “concrete evidence” that the “liberal” media is “manipulating” debates.

That was in the written message to campaign supporters. In South Carolina, Bachmann’s campaign manager was a little more animated, declaring in the spin room, “John Dickerson should be fired. He is a piece of shit. He is a fraud and he should be fired.”

Team Bachmann is nothing if not subtle.

So, does the campaign have a point? No, actually it doesn’t. Dickerson, whose reputation as a serious media professional is well deserved, explained in response to the Bachmann tirade, “Bachmann is at 4 percent in the polls and has been for a while. Other candidates aren’t. I sent an email based on that.”

There is no conspiracy here. As the pre-voting window closes, and the importance of the debates increases, it stands to reason news organizations are going to invest more time in candidates who stand a credible chance of winning the nomination. At this point in 2007, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich weren’t getting a lot of questions. For that matter, Jon Huntsman didn’t exactly enjoy the spotlight last night, either.

If Bachmann’s campaign hadn’t imploded in the late summer, I imagine Dickerson would have been more inclined to give her more airtime. If the CBS News political director was actually trying to “suppress” a “conservative message,” we wouldn’t have seen so many questions going to Romney, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich — none of whom, the last time I checked, is moderate.

Bachmann, an unhinged House member, always sees conspiracies lurking behind every corner. Remember the time the right-wing presidential candidate argued that the U.S. Census may lead to “internment camps“? How about when she warned of a “one-world currency” because she got confused about what a global reserve currency is? Or maybe the time she thought the “Lion King” was secretly gay propaganda? How about the time she said a bipartisan national service bill could lead to “re-education camps“?

This new one isn’t much better. It might help inspire some of her few remaining supporters to write Bachmann another check, but the complaints are pretty foolish.