Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was on CNN last night, and host Anderson Cooper pressed her to get specific about what programs she would cut to reduce the deficit.
“Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?” Cooper asked. But Bachmann wasn’t initially interested in discussing Medicare and Social Security. Instead, she responded to Cooper by arguing about a much more pressing matter: the cost of President Obama’s upcoming trip to India.
“Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking two thousand people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it’s a very small example, Anderson.”
But wait: $200 million a day? Snopes.com says that the $200 million figure, which has been picked up by right-wing blogs, is “probably false.” Snopes traced the rumor back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article published on Tuesday. Factcheck.org calls the claim “highly doubtful,” and points out that the entire war in Afghanistan currently costs about $190 million a day (h/t AJC).
“The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality. Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told TPM in an e-mail.
Last night, though, Bachmann wouldn’t have it.
“But don’t all Presidents take overseas trips, and stay in hotels where there’s security?” Cooper asked Bachmann.
“Not, not, not at this level. We have never seen this sort of an entourage going with a President before. And I think this is an example of the massive overspending that we’ve seen, not only just in the last two years, but really in the last four,” she responded.
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When Cooper confronted Bachmann with the fact that the White House says the figures are inflated, she dismissed that line of argument.
“And that may be what the White House is stating,” Bachmann said. “But again, we have never seen a trip at this level before, of this level of excess. And I think it’s not a good signal to send to the American people, when the American people are, quite frankly, struggling right now with high job losses.”
Anderson said that “frankly, no one really knows the cost, because for security reasons, they don’t disclose the costs, so this idea that its $200 million or whatever is simply made up.”
“Well these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press,” Bachmann said.
“The issue here is really government excess and spending,” Bachmann said a little later. “If it’s that difficult and that expensive, maybe we should use video conferencing for these meetings, to have meetings between our two government leaders. Or inviting them to come to the United States.”
Watch the whole clip:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com