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How Melissa Gilbert Responds to ‘IRS Tax Cheat’ Claims 7 Years After Her Congressional Campaign



Melissa Gilbert ran for Congress in Michigan’s Eighth District in 2016. She ended up dropping out due to health issues, but she got far enough into the race to have her opponent’s team hit her with a smear campaign. Her Republican opponent, incumbent Mike Bishop, put out a statement calling Gilbert an IRS tax cheat. Here’s what the Little House on the Prairie alum says about the statement all these years later. 

Melissa Gilbert’s response to ‘IRS tax cheat’ claim 

In her 2022 memoir, Back to the Prairie, Gilbert wrote that Bishop’s policies “were at the opposite end of the spectrum from my beliefs.”

As soon as the former Laura Ingalls actor announced that she’d officially be running for Congress in Michigan’s Eighth District, her opponent went on the attack. 

“His spokesperson put out a statement calling me an IRS tax cheat wanting a government paycheck and declared that my ‘values are out of whack with the district,’” she wrote. 

The statement didn’t faze the actor. 

“I did owe a significant sum of money in federal and California state taxes, as the Detroit News had reported nearly two months earlier, but I also had a deal with the IRS,” she explained. “As they instruct you to do when a tax problem arises, I called them up and said I had gone through a divorce and lost a house, and asked to work out a payment plan, which they agreed to. Even the Detroit News, in a follow-up story, defended me. While the writer disagreed with my so-called Obama-Pelosi politics, he said I wasn’t a tax cheat. He even described his own tax issues similar to mine.”


Gilbert expected her opponent to take shots like “IRS Tax Cheat” when she decided to run for Congress—“What’s the old saying? If you can’t stand the heat, don’t get under the blow dryer.”

Why Melissa Gilbert decided to run for Congress  

After Gilbert moved to Michigan with her husband, Timothy Busfield, she became interested in the local politics. She was a fan of Democrat Mark Schauer and wanted to help out with his 2014 campaign. She and Busfield made some phone calls for her to get involved and Schauer’s team was happy to have her aboard. At the end of the race (a devastating loss for Schauer), he asked Gilbert if she’d be interested in running for Congress. After giving it a lot of thought and talking it over with Busfield, she decided to go for it. 

“The campaign experience left me feeling good about the way I had spent my time,” she wrote. “I liked being with people, hearing their stories, and letting them know I would try to figure out a way to help.”

Melissa Gilbert dropped out due to health issues

Gilbert experienced “tremendous pain” during her campaign due to a herniated disc pressing on the nerves in her neck. As time went on, the pain grew greater and greater. 

“I was popping Percocet like they were Pez and regularly calling time-outs to get spinal blocks and epidurals,” she wrote. “The alarms finally went off when I asked my neurologist about morphine.” 

At that point, her neurologist told her she was “risking permanent spinal damage if I continued [with the race] rather than focus on taking care of myself.”


So she dropped out. 

Looking back, she thinks it was all for the best. She lives a happy, peaceful life now that wouldn’t have been possible if she’d won the race.

Source: Cheat Sheet

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