(Photo: REUTERS / Robert Galbraith)
CBS News conspired to marginalize GOP candidate Michele Bachmann during the Republican primary debate Saturday, Bachmann claims. According to Talking Points Memo (TPM), Bachmann announced to reporters in the spin room after the debate that her campaign has proof that the debate sponsor, CBS, had “preplanned to attempt to limit the number of questions [she] was asked on stage.”
Bachmann’s campaign released an email that was mistakenly sent to her communications director Alice Stewart from John Dickerson, the new political director at CBS News. Dickerson admits to having accidently “replied all” to an email chain in which Stewart received his statement saying that he would rather have another candidate, and not Bachmann, on his post-debate web show because she’s nearly “off the charts” and won’t “get many questions” in the debate.
After receiving the email, the Bachmann team claimed bias on the part of CBS.
According to CNN, Bachmann’s campaign manager Keith Nahigian “stormed through the spin room” saying, “John Dickerson should be fired. He is a piece of s***. He is a fraud and he should be fired.”
CBS, however, denies any wrong doing, saying simply the email stated the facts. Bachmann is currently trailing Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul. According to Real Clear Politics, she has a 4.1 percent approval rating among Republican-leaning voters.
A CBS spokesperson told CNN that the email was “a candid exchange about the reality of the circumstances – Bachmann remains at 4% in the polls.”
South Carolina GOP, one of the debate co-sponsors, said Bachmann had no grounds for complaints.
“The SC GOP had no input on how questions were developed or to whom they were addressed,” party Executive Director Matt Moore told TPM.
“Congresswoman Bachmann seemed to receive a fair number [of] questions, and had ample opportunities to answer.”
Team Bachmann, however, has maintained that there was a scheme by CBS to undermine her candidacy.
Using the incident as a fundraising opportunity, campaign manager Keith Nahigian sent an email out to Bachmann’s supporters calling for their backing.
"Please show your support by tweeting your outrage to CBS News and John Dickerson or posting on Facebook to give them a piece of your mind," Nahigian wrote. "Afterwards, I hope you will make a donation to Michele's campaign to ensure she has the funds necessary to fight back against the liberal media."
Although this incident seems to be comprised mostly of finger pointing, it may reveal one significant fact: Bachmann may not be the darling of the tea party any longer. Bachmann’s call for her supporters to post online, giving CBS “a piece of their mind” may have backfired. Her Facebook page reveals a mix of comments, a large number of which comes from people blasting her for the allegations and not CBS News. Also, the furious Twitter campaign never took off. As Politico’s Ben Smith notes, only a handful of hashtags concerning the debate were even about Bachmann.
Success with social media can represent a candidate’s strength among the grassroots. Back in the summer, Bachmann had this in her favor. For example, after the “crazy eyes” picture of her appeared on the cover of Newsweek Magazine, her supporters flocked to social sites decrying what they saw as unfair treatment.
Now, however, her supporters are barely a blip on the social media radar screen.