UPDATE: Michele Bachmann told supporters Monday that her weekend comments about Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake being messages from God were all in good fun.
"I have a great sense of humor and I think it's important to exhibit that humor sometimes when you are talking to people as well," she said at a campaign event in Miami, CNN reports. "Of course I was being humorous when I said that."
UPDATE Monday at 4:43 p.m.: One more note on this: It looks like Michele Bachmann used her Hurricane Irene laugh line at least twice this weekend. The CNN clip mentioned below appears to be from a different location than this clip, also making the rounds Monday (from an NBC affiliate via Mediaite).
Bachmann's words are pretty much the same, but her delivery and the crowd's reaction are slightly different. (For what it's worth, based on the exact wording of the remarks, the NBC clip appears to be the one quoted in the original St. Petersburg Times article that started this whole thing.)
UPDATE at 1:32 p.m. The video is now making the rounds on the Internet and cable news, and it is pretty clear that Bachmann was indeed having some fun when she made her comments.
CNN American Morning has the clip, and the trio of anchors seem in agreement that not only was Bachmann joking, but that the joke was funny. (We'll reserve judgment on the latter part.) You can watch for yourself here.
Given that Bachmann made her comments Sunday afternoon, while what was left of Hurricane Irene was still battering the Northeast—doing billions of dollars in damages and killing at least 25 people—the GOP hopeful is likely to continue to catch some flack for her comments. Still, her backers certainly have grounds to complain that the media and her critics were quick to jump on the comments without checking the tape first.
UPDATE at 12:04 p.m.: Michele Bachmann's campaign said Monday that the White House hopeful was only joking when she suggested over the weekend that Hurricane Irene and last week's East Coast earthquake were messages from God.
"Of course she was saying it in jest," campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart told Reuters. Stewart delivered a similar quote to other media outlets, but does not appear to have elaborated further on the issue. Talking Points Memo notes that while Bachmann appeared to draw "some titters of laughter from the crowd" when she made her comments, the local media didn't judge her to be joking.
Team Bachmann's attempt to downplay the controversial comments are likely to do little to push them from the headlines and political talk shows, however. The likely best-case scenario for the campaign is that they are merely labeled a political gaffe, the latest in a string from the Minnesota congresswoman.
POST at 10:08 a.m.: The East Coast was rocked by an earthquake last week and then battered by Hurricane Irene days later. Michele Bachman has a theory on why: It was God’s way of telling the political class to embrace small government.
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of politicians,” the GOP presidential hopeful said over the weekend at a campaign event in Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."
Politico notes that Bachmann isn't the first to venture into the "risky territory of attributing political motive to natural disasters": John Hagee suggested that New Orleans' gay pride parade may have triggered Hurricane Katrina, while Pat Robertson speculated that Katrina may have been tied to the debate over abortion.
There’s also a more practical issue at hand: If Bachmann was implying that the "message" was directed at Washington, D.C., in specific, it may have been lost amid summer vacations. Congress is currently in the middle of August recess, so most lawmakers weren't in town for either the quake or the storm. Likewise, President Obama was in Martha's Vineyard for the earthquake, although he did return to D.C. early to be at the White House during Hurricane Irene.