Michele Bachmann Quote About Earthquake, Irene Being Messages From God a Joke?

Rep. Michele Bachmann's camp was retreating Monday after the Republican presidential candidate's statement seemingly attributing Hurricane Irene and the Virginia earthquake to God came under scrutiny.

"Obviously she was saying it in jest," campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told political website Talking Points Memo (TPM) in a statement.

The comment in question was made by Bachmann while the Minnesota congresswoman was campaigning in Sarasota, Fla., over the weekend.

Speaking to a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times Sunday, Bachmann said:

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."

According to Bachmann's representative, the Minnesota congresswoman's words were not to be taken seriously.

Pointing to reception of the presidential candidate's outspokenness on various issues since the start of her campaign, critics speculated that Bachmann's camp was retreating in an effort to avoid inviting further scrutiny by claiming the statement was only a joke.

Bachmann, an evangelical Christian, has attracted a lot of scrutiny since she announced her intention to run for the White House in 2012 for statements she has made regarding her faith.

Earlier this month, during the Iowa presidential debate and on NBC’s "Meet The Press," Bachmann was asked if she would be submissive to her husband if she were elected president.

Bachmann's response clarifying that she respected her husband sparked debates about gender roles as well as theological discussions about the Minnesota politician's interpretation of biblical "submission."

During her travels in Florida this past weekend, Bachmann visited Idlewild Baptist Church, where she worshipped with about 3,000 people. The presidential hopeful also stopped at Sahib Shrine Temple in Tampa Bay, where she attracted more than a thousand visitors.

Hurricane Irene, which made landfall in North Carolina as a category one storm, having been a category three storm just days before, lost strength on its approach to Canada, and has been blamed for at least 21 deaths by Monday morning.

Irene also left six million people without power and billions of dollars in damages in its wake.

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