I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One in My Stump Speech

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tim Murphy painstakingly documents the problems with a claim Bachmann used to make in Minnesota, and that she still sometimes makes in her stump speech: That she was a doctor.

When Bachmann knocked off incumbent GOP state Sen. Gary Laidig at the district nominating convention, the MREC fired off a news release repeatedly invoking their candidate’s honorarium. “On the first ballot, Dr. Michele Bachmann was endorsed 62% to Laidig’s 38%,” it read. “Dr. Bachmann herself, who arrived at her convention with no intention of running, was shocked by her victory.” (The narrative, promoted by the congresswoman, that she was an unlikely candidate is false—Bachmann had announced her candidacy months earlier and laid the groundwork for the upset by stacking the convention with anti-Profile activists.)

“Dr. Bachmann” might have given the activist a bit more gravitas, but it was not an appropriate title. Bachmann received a J.D.—the standard law school degree—from Oral Roberts University, and an LL.M. in tax law from William & Mary in 1988. The LL.M. does count as a postdoctoral degree, as Bachmann says, because it came after she had received a “terminal degree”—that is, a degree that can’t be directly improved upon. But while J.D. (juris doctor) has the word “doctor” in it, it is not accepted practice for J.D.’s to refer to themselves as “Dr.”

This is the kind of story that occasionally sinks candidates for lower offices. Darcy Burner, a 2006/2008 congressional candidate, lost a winnable seat after she claimed “I loved economics so much, I got a degree in it” from Harvard. Technically, she had a degree in computer science with a special field in economics.* She minored in the subject, but she still had to take hell for the quote. Barack Obama took a little heat when he didn’t correct the idea that he was a “professor,” more than a lecturer, at the University of Chicago law school.

And it’s one in a string of Bachmann fibs that make her sound 1) more experienced and 2) more embattled than she is. Murphy previously demolished Bachmann’s claim that Democrats tried to draw her out of a state Senate district in 2002 – something they literally lacked the power to do.

*I cleaned this up a little to explain the controversy. The point: There was no forgiveness from the press or her opponent for what basically was clumsy phrasing.