What’s the difference between the actor who will forever embody the American ideal of craggy cowboy masculinity and the serial killer who forever made clowns way way creepier than they’d ever been before?
One answer turns out to be four letters and about 150 miles – not quite enough to keep Rep. Michele Bachmann from prompting a chorus of internet giggles for apparently mixing them up.
On the day of her presidential announcement, Bachmann, an Iowa native, told FOX News that she and John Wayne share a hometown. “John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa,” she said. “That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."
Bachmann repeated that idea to NBC News in an interview. "I'm not pining for nostalgia back in the 50s and 60s, that isn't it," she told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell. "But that sensibility about how we were grounded here is so important. For instance, another American that was born in Waterloo was John Wayne. We were a very patriotic 'yay rah rah America' city and nation and I think that's what America's looking for again."
The problem: While actor John Wayne – the gravelly-voiced Western film star known for his characteristic walk and his conservative values– was in fact from Iowa (and, Bachmann’s campaign later pointed out, his parents briefly lived in Waterloo), he was born in Winterset, about 150 miles away.
The famous similarly-named guy who did make his home in Waterloo: John Wayne Gacy -- the serial killer known for dressing as “Pogo the Clown” who buried over two dozen of his young male victims in the crawlspace of his Illinois home.
Gacy, who was born in Chicago, lived in Waterloo in the late 1960s before serving time for sodomy at Anamosa State Penitentiary. He would later go on to commit more than 30 murders.
The mix-up – which, considering the Iowa roots of both men, isn’t as baffling as some Bachmann critics may make it out to be-- isn’t independently the kind of gaffe that makes voters suddenly change their minds. But it’s certain to become late-night comedy fodder for a candidate who has already been ridiculed for a more serious historical mangling of details about the beginning of the Revolutionary War.