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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bachmann Decries Rumors, Then Spreads Them

At Friday’s conservative Values Voter Summit, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke out against "falsehoods and rumors" about the tea party movement. We applaud any call to combat misinformation — but Bachmann would do well to guard against falsehoods and rumors herself. In the same speech, she complained about "Speaker Pelosi, who has been busy sticking the taxpayer for a $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she is flying." That’s a totally off-base assertion that we addressed back in March.

The conservative group Judicial Watch seems to have started this rumor, as a follow-up to its previous equally inaccurate claims about Pelosi’s air travel. The group posted records that it said prove the speaker’s “boorish demands for military travel” are “more about partying than anything else.” Based on these documents, conservative news company WorldNetDaily alleged that Pelosi spent more than $100,000 of the military’s money on "food [and] booze" on flights for congressional delegations (or CODELs). But they based that claim on Judicial Watch’s tally of "in-flight expenses" from the documents — and in fact, that means any non-transportation CODEL expenses that are covered by the Air Force. That includes baggage fees; meeting room rentals and refreshments; gifts for foreign diplomats; and meals, ground transportation and lodging in U.S. territory. By our calculations, this came to $110,000 spent by the Air Force for nine Pelosi-led CODELs.

It is true that House members on CODELs aren’t drinking rail liquor. No matter which party is in charge (Judicial Watch’s documents also covered a number of CODELs headed by Pelosi’s Republican predecessor, Dennis Hastert), the bar is well-stocked. But Pelosi herself doesn’t drink, her staff told us, and even if she did, it would be entirely inaccurate to call this "her bar tab." It’s the bar and food and baggage and sundries tab for nine trips that had between 11 and 85 official participants each.