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Michele Bachmann tells televangelist she might run for Al Franken's Senate seat

File photo of Michele Bachmann greeting the crowd after winning the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa, Aug. 13, 2011. (Eric Thayer/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)
 

Former congresswoman Michele Bachmann recently announced on a televangelist's show that she is mulling a run for Al Franken's U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. Franken officially resigned Tuesday, Jan. 2, over allegations of sexual misconduct that emerged in late 2017.

Bachmann, who has five children and fostered 23 children, has become somewhat of a hero in some conservative circles, taking the stage at several conservative Christian conferences, including the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit. She was part of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory council during his campaign.

Bachmann, who served Minnesota's 6th Congressional District from 2007 to 2015, became the first Republican woman to be elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota. She was one of the final six Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential election. She was investigated by congressional committees over allegations of campaign finance violations by her presidential campaign and did not seek reelection in 2014.

Last week, Bachmann told televangelist Jim Bakker that she fears she will be unfairly attacked by Washington insiders because "the swamp is so toxic."

"My husband and I aren't money people. And that's the thing. We're normal . . . If you're a billionaire, you can maybe defend yourself. We're not money people. You know, you can have frivolous lawsuits filed against you all the time, and then what do you do?" Bachmann said on the show.

"It is really tough if you are going against the tide in D.C. - if you are trying to stand for biblical principles in D.C. and you stick your head up out of the hole, the blades come roaring and they come to chop you off," she said.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will sit in Franken's seat until a special election in November for someone to serve out the final two years of his term. State Sen. Karin Housley, a Republican, is already in the race. Former governor Tim Pawlenty, an outspoken evangelical and a Republican, is seen as another potential contender.

Using the language of many conservative Christians, Bachmann said she felt as if she had fulfilled her calling when she left Congress. She said her goal was to put the issue of Obamacare front and center in the presidential race.

"The question is, am I being called to do this now?" she said. "I don't know."

Bakker said that right now, the political process and the media are "dirty," adding, "They want to kill the president of the United States, and if they could put a contract [out on Donald Trump] . . . - which they probably already have - they would do so."

"The Jim Bakker Show" is an hour-long daily broadcast featuring "prophetic and biblical revelations" and regularly advertises products like apparel and jewelry. As Bachmann was speaking, an ad running across the bottom of the screen pitched a year's worth of food for $650 or nine years' worth of food for $3,700. Bakker has urged his followers to stock up on food, saying that this generation will experience a rapture and that Christians must be prepared for difficult times.

Ahead of her run for the 2012 presidential nomination, Bachmann said she left her Lutheran church for a church that is part of the Evangelical Free Church of America in Minnesota. Her former church was part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which received media attention for calling the papacy the Antichrist. She has called herself a "spirit-filled Christian," meaning she considers herself a part of the charismatic movement, which is known for emphasizing practices such as healing services and speaking in tongues.

Bachmann's appearance on Bakker's show is interesting given his controversial past. Bakker was a well-known televangelist from the 1970s and early 1980s who had millions of viewers before his ministry took a hit.

In a report, Christianity Today magazine cited historian John Wigger's recently published book "PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Evangelical Empire," which tells the story of Bakker and his former wife. Wigger writes in his book that a young woman alleged Bakker and she had a nonconsensual sexual encounter (although he writes that she does not call it rape) and that Bakker allegedly had sex with at least six of his male employees.

Bakker also bought a houseboat with ministry funds and gave himself an extravagant income while the ministry laid employees off, according to Wigger. Bakker was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges and spent time in federal prison. His son Jay Bakker is a progressive pastor in Minnesota who has been critical of the religious right. Another son, Ricky Bakker, serves as a host on his father's show, which also features Jim Bakker's second wife.

 Story by Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Bailey is a religion reporter, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and...everything.
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