A Nexis search for "'Michele Bachmann' AND 'Gore Vidal'" finds eight articles. And in fact the first two articles, from 2004 and 2005, tell the story differently. As the Pioneer Press reported on then-state Senator Bachmann in 2004:
Bachmann, 48, grew up in Waterloo, Iowa; both parents were Democrats. She says she realized she was a Republican during her college days while riding an Amtrak train from the metro area to Winona State University.
"I was reading a book, '1876' by Gore Vidal, and what he was writing about just didn't ring true," she said. "I remember thinking, 'You are such a fraud. What you're writing about isn't true,' and I remember looking out the window and thinking 'Am I becoming a Republican?' "
The story here is virtually the same as in the tale from last week, taking place on a train while Bachmann was headed back to college. The author is the same as well, with Gore Vidal having the honor, but the book selection is different. Then beginning in a Star Tribune profile in 2007, during Bachmann's first term in the House, the book in the story became Burr, which directly depicts the nation's founders in an unfavorable light, and it has remained Burr in all future instances. (Though sometimes it is only referred to as an unspecified Gore Vidal book.)
We've contacted Bachmann's office for comment, but they have not immediately responded as of this writing.
Something fishy is going on here. Show us the library card!
(Special thanks to TPM reader B.H.)