By Alicia M. Cohn - 09/17/11 02:53 PM EDT
Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) defended her views to a late night talk show audience Friday night, calling Tea Party principles “pretty mainstream” and defending the controversial Christian counseling clinics run by her husband.
Critics have called the two centers, overseen in part by Marcus Bachmann, “pray away the gay” clinics. Bachmann said the clinics “do a great job.”
The clinic does not specifically target homosexuality, Bachmann said. “Whatever issue anyone has, we don’t discriminate. Our therapists deal with whatever the issues are,” she said. “And if they can’t deal with it, they refer them somewhere else.”
Bachmann has previously refused to discuss the clinics, saying neither her husband nor her business was running for office. However, she has faced strong opposition from gay rights groups over the issue.
Bachmann, who founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House, drew a line between the Tea Party movement and social issues such as the type dealt with at the clinic. “The Tea Party is about fiscal conservatism and having government get its act together,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t know what the Tea Party stands for. It stands for the fact that we’re taxed enough already, number two, government shouldn’t spend more money than what it takes in, and number three, the government should act within the bounds of the constitution. That’s pretty mainstream stuff,” she said.
Late night talk show host Jay Leno pushed Bachmann to talk about previous controversial statements, calling her “strident” in her positions on many issues.
“Convicted. I’m convicted,” Bachmann said.
“Convicted?” Leno replied. “No, you don’t get convicted until after you’re in office. That’s later. You have to get elected first.”
Leno asked Bachmann about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, another Tea Party favorite who continues to poll near Bachmann despite remaining an undecided candidate.
“I like Sarah Palin, we’re friends,” Bachmann said. “She may decide to [get into the race]. The more people who come in, the merrier.”