Likely reality: A member of Michelle Bachmann’s staff confused Waterloo, Iowa with Winterset, Iowa.
Gleefully reported story: Michelle Bachmann confused notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy with American film icon and airport name-giver John Wayne.
Vigorous competition for eyeballs notwithstanding, this is information irresponsibility, plain and simple.
There is no reason to assume that Bachmann, apparently unaware of the relatively well-known John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa, some 150 miles from Waterloo, was better informed about the birthplace of the serial killer (who certainly demonstrated few of the “what America’s all about” qualities the candidate praises in the cowboy). More likely is that Bachmann’s aides were careless in their research before her Waterloo appearance, giving her bad information.
Making the leap from John Wayne’s misnamed hometown to a mix-up of him and Gacy seems like a vaguely dishonest means to a spicy headline (not to mention innumerable videos of a Pogo-faced Michele Bachmann on YouTube). Granted, the headline grabs the eye more than might “BACHMANN MIXES UP JOHN WAYNE’S HOMETOWN WITH ANOTHER IOWA HAMLET STARTING WITH W,” and thus draws attention to the kind of careless mistake on the part of the candidate that could have an impact on swing voters.