COMMENTARY | Once again, conservatives are sounding the bell of media bias in relation to a prominent figure. Michele Bachmann’s meteoric rise in the Republican race for president has been accompanied by difficult questions concerning comments she has made in the past. Even though Congresswoman Bachmann has chosen to be in the spotlight with her candidacy, the right claims the media are persecuting Bachmann — a claim that is ridiculous and unfounded.
Is Bachmann Submissive?
The accusations started Thursday, when Bachmann was asked by Republican debate moderator Byron York is if she would be submissive to her husband as president of the United States. On the surface the question may seem sexist, but the inquiry was grounded in comments Bachmann had made in 2006 regarding her decision to study tax law, despite her admission of hating the idea.
According to CBS News, Bachmann accommodated her husband’s request to practice law, stating, “The Lord said, ‘Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'” The same CBS News article points out that Penny Nance, president of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, was “taken aback,” judging the question “incredibly inappropriate and downright ignorant.” Interestingly enough, York is a conservative columnist, so it seems even members of the right wing media are asking unfair questions.
The idea that every question posed to Republican candidates is unfair tampers with the fundamental principle that the press must hold politicians accountable. It is legitimate to ask a presidential candidate whether she would be submissive to her spouse when she has admitted doing so in the past. The question has nothing to do with gender, but with power.
The president of the United States is elected to the most powerful position in the world. Of course he/she will seek guidance from his/her significant other, but there is a difference between guidance and submission. Ronald Reagan faced similar questions during his presidency as rumors swirled that Nancy Reagan was behind White House decisions. Bachmann made a statement and should clarify what she meant. Should she win any election, the people are electing her, not her husband.
Bachmann and Gay Rights
Sunday marked more traditional accusations of liberal bias, as Bachmann appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press with David Gregory. According to the Christian Post, Gregory pushed the congresswoman to clarify her views on gay rights, asking whether Bachmann would consider a gay person for a cabinet post. Bachmann danced around the question, responding with her criteria for political appointees: “Where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent and do you share my views.” She went on to say that such questions were irrelevant to being president. Conservative columnists, such as the Christian Post’s Napp Nazworth, claimed the line of questioning was out of line.
Irrelevant? Out of line? Bachmann’s views on homosexuality are well-documented, and this article is not a forum to debate them. But to say that such a question is out of line is absurd. Gays represent a significant portion of America’s population, and whether a president would refuse to appoint them to government positions is very relevant and appropriate.
Media Bias A Myth
The latest flurry of right-wing whining drums up memories of Sarah Palin and Katie Couric’s rocky relationship. Conservatives consistently claim media bias, and it’s a myth. The right questioned President Obama about his patriotism when he was linked to Rev. Wright, and every major news outlet carried the story. Obama’s birthplace was questioned and even given legitimacy by the news networks. It was well within the right of the media to ask those questions because Barack Obama is a public figure.
The media have only one bias, and that is to make money. If Bachmann, and now more recently Rick Perry with his “treasonous” language regarding Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, don’t want to answer questions, then get out of the race. Until then, conservatives would be better served trying to solve this nation’s problems than complaining about media bias. Both sides of the political spectrum have their outlets, and both pander to their audience. If I could choose to have my public officials answer difficult questions or none at all, I would choose difficult questions every time!