Tonight's Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, will provide one of the first chances to use the glare of a national television camera to pressure Michele Bachman into answering questions about her husband's clinics, reparative therapy, and the rash of teen suicides in her district.
Bachmann has successfully dodged questions about her beliefs and specifically about a hidden-camera investigation that found so-called reparative therapy offered by her family's Christian counseling clinics. In one interview with a local TV station, her satellite feed actually cut out suddenly without explanation.
Fox News will be moderating, so the onus will likely be on host Bret Baier to confront the Minnesota congresswoman on gay rights. The other candidates would be far less likely than gay candidate Fred Karger to raise the issue, had the network allowed him into the debate.
Karger was told that despite averaging 1% in five national polls, he still hadn't qualified to debate. Fox said the polls were either too old or of questionable validity; Karger says he might file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
Bachmann's background fighting gay rights has come under increased scrutiny since the last debate, as she and other candidates signed antigay pledges from the Iowa Family Leader and the National Organization for Marriage. The pledges have her outwardly lending support to amending the U.S. Constitution so it bans same-sex marriage, wanting to put marriage equality up for a vote in the District of Columbia, and promising to create a panel to investigate the opposition to these ideas for supposed harassment. The list doesn't stop there. She is now on record proclaiming that gay people make inferior parents, that gay men are a health risk, and that homosexuality is a choice.
And after Mother Jones reported that state public health officials had designated Bachamman's district as a "suicide contagion area" for teenagers, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on Bachmann to respond to criticism that her actions had contributed to the problem.
ThinkProgressreports today that Bachmann's political career was launched with help from a now-defunct group called EdWatch, which opposed the passage of a hate-crimes bill in Minnesota because it would give "moral legitimacy of homosexuality by setting it along side constitutionally protected freedom of religion and racial characteristics."
Watch the debate tonight from the Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University at 9 p.m. Eastern.