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Story of Bachmann’s migraines snowballs

Reports that presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann suffers from migraine headaches blazed across the internet like wildfire Tuesday, with everyone from bloggers to mainstream media pundits weighing in on whether the affliction could hinder the Minnesota Republican’s ability to perform if elected. One conservative heavy-hitter says it could be a “gamechanger,” while some on the left posit that the news — put out in a piece by Tucker Carlson’s site The Daily Caller that relies primarily on anonymous sources — is part of a smear campaign by another GOP candidate. And a reporter for ABC was shoved by Bachmann’s handlers when he pressed her for answers on Tuesday afternoon.

The Daily Caller piece starts out with an anecdote by a “former aide” who says that the summer 2010 departure of Bachmann’s communications director Dave Dziok “triggered a debilitating medical episode that landed the congresswoman in urgent care.” Such episodes, “witnesses” say, “occur once a week on average and can ‘incapacitate’ her for days at time.” The piece has numerous unnamed sources, but only one who is named, Bachmann spokesperson Alice Stewart, who confirmed Bachmann suffers from the headaches and noted that “they’re under control with medicine.”

Bryan Fischer of the conservative American Family Association called the news a “game-changer.”

“However, it must be said that should the content of Strong’s piece be verified, I do not see how a Bachmann candidacy can survive,” Fischer wrote. “We obviously must have a president and commander-in-chief in full and complete health, who is in constant command of his faculties, and who has no known risk of being temporarily unable to discharge the duties of office.”

Fischer thinks the news opens the door for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (Fischer’s AFA is partnering with Perry for a large prayer event in August).

Some have suggested the news was leaked to the Daily Caller by the Pawlenty campaign, while others have charged that the ruckus surrounding her illness is sexist because women are more likely to suffer from migraines.

Jessica Grose of the Slate’s Double X blog suggests that maybe it’s not:

Recall the hysteria surrounding John McCain’s health and pill-taking: In the run-up to the 2008 election, pundits were fretting about his bout with melanoma and worried that his Ambien use might cloud his judgment. It’s possible that the Caller article was just a bunch of disaffected former Bachmann cronies dissing their former boss. But if Bachmann really does have debilitating migraines that put her out of commission for days at a time, that’s relevant, gender-neutral information.

Bachmann’s campaign released a lengthy statement (see below) on Tuesday afternoon explaining Bachmann’s history of migraines and downplaying the idea that they are debilitating. But ABC’s Brian Ross sought out more information from the campaign on Tuesday and was roughed up by her handlers.

Time’s Michael Crowley was on hand to witness the fracas:

Ross dashed after Bachmann, repeatedly asking whether she had ever missed a House vote due to a migraine. She ignored him. Ross pursued her into a parking area behind the stage. Her aides grew alarmed. When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force. In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one.

ABC senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider condemned the violence by Bachmann’s handlers.

“He was certainly shoved around and pushed,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job.”

“We were videotaping Brian asking questions,” he said. “I’m sure it will find its way onto our web site at some point.”

Here’s Bachmann’s full statement acknowledging that she suffers from migraines:

“Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication. I am a wife, a mother, a lawyer who worked her way through law school, a former state senator who achieved the repeal of a harmful piece of education policy in Minnesota, and a congresswoman who has worked tirelessly fighting against the expansion of government and wasteful spending.

“Since entering the campaign, I have maintained a full schedule between my duties as a congresswoman and as a presidential candidate traveling across the nation to meet with voters in the key, early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. I have prescription medication that I take whenever symptoms arise and they keep the migraines under control. Let me be abundantly clear – my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief.

“The many questions I have received on this subject have allowed me to discuss this important condition that impacts individuals in nearly one in four households. However, as a presidential candidate and office holder, I am focused on performing my job, which has never been more important given the state of our economy and the millions of Americans that are out of work. While I appreciate the concern for me and my health, the greater concern should be the debate that is occurring in Washington over whether or not we will increase our debt, spending and taxes.”

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