Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., coming off a razor-thin re-election, is once again in the headlines after delivering a speech that centered on slamming President Barack Obama’s response to last year’s attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
At least, it started off about Benghazi. But soon enough, the former Republican presidential hopeful digressed into criticism of Obama for his purported penchant for lavish living, alleging taxpayers fund five personal chefs for the first family, and even a presidential dog walker – all in all, Bachmann said, $1.4 billion of taxpayer money goes toward White House perks and excess.
Those allegations – which The Washington Post’s fact checker called “absurd” – are not factual. When CNN’s Dana Bash tracked Bachmann down on Capitol Hill for a comment on Tuesday, the congresswoman literally tried to run away from the reporter.
"The big point of my speech was about Benghazi," Bachmann said, when Bash asked her to expand on the “excesses” of the Obama White House. After attempting to deflect the reporter, Bachmann stopped for a moment and criticized her for bringing up dog handlers when four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack.
“But congresswoman, you’re the one who brought it up!” Bash responded, but Bachmann was already walking away.
Bachmann appeared to be citing a self-published book titled “Presidential Perks Gone Royal,” that reportedly does not have any specific sourcing for its claims. But the book does not assert Bachmann’s claims about the chefs on Air Force One, or the president’s supposedly pricey dog handler (Obama does not in fact pay anyone to walk the family dog, Bo. Apparently the White House groundskeeper has been performing that service for free for the past eight presidents).
“We could not track down a source for 'five chefs' on Air Force One, but perhaps the word 'cook' would be better. In any case, taxpayers will be pleased to hear that White House staffers need to pay out of their pocket — $20 a meal — if they eat on board,” reports the Post fact checker.
Running the White House is, in fact, incredibly expensive. But almost half of the estimated $1.4 billion (a figure which itself comes from a self-published book) is related to the Secret Service budget. According to that same book, titled “The $1.4 Billion Man: Costs of the Obama White House,” the cost of running the White House in fiscal year 2008, when George W. Bush was still president, was about $1.6 billion.