Bachmann's latest gaffe adds to a long string of them
October 5th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
3 years ago

Bachmann's latest gaffe adds to a long string of them

Sioux City, Iowa (CNN) – After a string of high-profile gaffes, Michele Bachmann has made another that could provide one more piece of ammunition to critics who claim she doesn't always get her facts straight.

Some three weeks after saying she'd heard that a human papillomavirus vaccine caused mental retardation, the Republican presidential candidate again repeated something she was "told" that turns out to be inaccurate.

In this case, the Minnesota congresswoman - who has staked much of her campaign on having a solid understanding of taxes, spending and budgets - flubbed an important fact about which states are faring well in the troubled economy.

At issue: Bachmann's comments at a Monday town hall meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, which at first went unnoticed by the attending audience and assembled press.

After laying out reasons for her candidacy, and for making President Obama a "one-term president," Bachmann took questions from the audience. One of them was South Dakota State Sen. Dan Lederman.

"My question, actually, is about the Obama administration's delay of the Keystone Pipeline. I just want to know what your thoughts were about that delay?" Lederman asked. He was referring to a controversial proposal for a 1,700-mile oil pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and Texas.

Bachmann began her answer by saying, "Well we need it. It's tremendously beneficial. And it's part of the answer for the United States. It's jobs, it's dealing with energy, it's a positive solution."

"So the federal government should get out of the way and allow it to come through," Bachmann added.

Seconds later, Bachmann did what she's done before: repeat something she'd heard as fact.

"I was talking with a businessman this morning up in Minneapolis," she said. "And he was up in Williston, North Dakota, where the Bakken oil field is producing."

"Someone told me that last year that North Dakota was the only nation that actually was running a surplus. And it's because they're utilizing their natural energy resources," Bachmann added.

The congresswoman calling North Dakota a "nation" was clearly misspeaking. But more glaring: North Dakota was one of four states to run a surplus last year.

Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart responded to CNN's questions about the statement, saying, "The point Michele was making is that the country and states would benefit by legalizing all energy production and not picking winners and losers, as President Obama did with Solyndra. She disagrees with the president on energy - while he views it in terms of environmental policy, she views it in terms of economic policy."

The non-partisan research group, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tracks the financial health of states.

Liz McNichol, a senior fellow with the group, told CNN that for fiscal year 2011, Montana, Alaska and Arkansas also saw a surplus.

McNichol said it's understandable why Bachmann might mention North Dakota.

"North Dakota's been the subject of discussion all the way through because they've fared better than almost any other state," McNichol said. But "it's not completely accurate to say that North Dakota was the only state that was not running a shortfall, last year."

Brandon Sharp, Arkansas state budget administrator, also spoke with CNN.

"The state of Arkansas had a $94 million surplus at the end of fiscal year 2011," Sharp said.

Sarah Elliott, Communications Director for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told CNN, "For fiscal year 2011, Montana ended the year with a $340 million surplus, money in the bank."

Bachmann frequently uses precise figures to make scathing political points against opponents. So her latest comments beg the question: Should voters expect her to verify what she's "heard" before repeating it as fact?

Bachmann is certainly not alone in getting her facts wrong. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama mistakenly said he'd traveled to 57 U.S. states. Later, Obama admitted he misspoke. Also, critics deride Vice President Joe Biden as a gaffe machine. Among them: just after the 2009 inauguration, Biden mistakenly referred to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens – who swore Biden into office – as Justice Stewart. And in 2008, Biden talked about the crash of the stock market under President Franklin D. Roosevelt – although the crash happened in 1929 under President Herbert Hoover.

But Bachmann's gaffes are unique in that they frequently involve the congresswoman repeating items to make a political point – information that seemingly could be easily verified.

Earlier this month, at the CNN tea party debate, Bachmann slammed Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 2007 decision to require vaccinations for Texas school girls against the HPV virus which may cause cervical cancer. The next day, Bachmann appeared on network television and said she'd heard that from a woman, just after the debate, who said her daughter took the vaccine and suffered mental retardation.

Health experts roundly rejected any link between the HPV virus and mental retardation and Bachmann was forced to clarify.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Bachmann said: "I wasn't speaking as a doctor. I wasn't speaking as a scientist."

"I was merely passing on...what I had heard," she said.

In November 2010, Bachmann told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Obama's trip to Asia would cost $200 million per day. When pressed to explain, Bachmann said, "Well these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press."

CNN later showed that number to be unfounded and traced the figure to an unnamed Indian official quoted in a foreign news service.  After Bachmann's HPV comments, her former chief of staff told Cooper his former boss is "impulsive."

"To her credit, she reads an awful lot of information," Ron Carey said. "But sometimes I'm afraid that she reads maybe 80 or 90% and leaves out or forgets the 10 or 20% that can change the outcome."

"So her impulsive nature – coupled with the fact that she sometimes doesn't digest information as carefully as she should – leads to these kinds of impulsive statements that sometimes are just off the mark enough that it makes her into more of a provocative, controversial figure," Carey added.

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter @ShanTravisCNN

Also see:

State of the Race without Christie

Longtime Illinois Rep. to step down in 2012

Romney picks up new backers

Perry brings in $17 million in third fundraising quarter


Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Michele Bachmann
soundoff (549 Responses)
  1. IsNot

    i don't know what is worse–her "facts" pulled out of thin air or the TP faithful who rush over to Wikipedia and alter the entries to make her (and the others who cannot find a fact with four hands, a map and a flashlight) look "right".

    October 5, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. Southerner

    You forgot part of one of the Biden quotes. When he made the comment about FDR and the depression, he also said that FDR would get on TV and reassure the nation. Problem? TV's in the US did not go into wide production until after WWII, well after the end of depression and well after FDR was president.

    October 5, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  3. IsNot

    @ Mitt Who ?:

    Excuse me but I have heard tales of autisim related to other required vaccines from parents all over.
    ---------------------
    You've heard "tales". That means nothing. Can you show us one person you personally know whose child has been negatively affected by a vaccination. And don't cite that garish website where every childhood death is linked to getting a shot months before.

    The British study that started the latest "vaccinations are bad" movement turned out to be a fraud. The doctor admitted to fudging the stats to make the people funding the study happy. But Bachmann didn't say the mother claimed autism–she said the mythical mother claimed her daughter became retarded because of a shot.

    We donate the same vaccinations our children get to countries all over the world to prevent diseases from spreading and those kids are not dropping dead or "becoming retarded" from those vaccines. If they are not otherwise health-compromised, they are surviving as best they can in evil situations.

    October 5, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  4. Roger Ogilivy Thornhill

    Geez, even George Bush, Jr. could use Google.

    October 5, 2011 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  5. tx4ever

    this is front news?

    October 5, 2011 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Ok folks, let's try to pretend to be at least a little balanced. Clearly, Bachmann needs to get her facts straight, but Obama & the Democrats make the same kinds of mistakes all the time . . . Special Olympics anyone? Furthermore if Bachmann, and Palin for that matter, were say Hilary Clinton and/or Nancy Pelosi would you still be as vigorous in your outrage?

    Keep your eyes on the prize, people! Don't get fooled by Bachmann, Obama, the Republicans, or the Democrats . . . anything that doesn't turn the economy around, decrease national spending, or move us toward energy independence is merely a wedge issue that is being used to throw you off the trail.

    October 5, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. ted

    Can we all agree that Michelle and her twin sister Sarah Palin are idiots?

    October 5, 2011 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. Kristina

    She says went to college & got a degree because her husband told her to, she became a congresswoman because her husband told her to, she is running for president because her husband told her to. I guess her husband should be telling
    her what to say too. I just wonder if she was president, who would make the nation security decisions, her husband???

    October 5, 2011 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  9. anonymous

    One man's "gaffe" is another man's "gander"

    October 5, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. Jimmy Cracks Capricorns

    POTUS Bush II heard lots of things and you people never questioned him. Why suddenly so concerned about voices in the heads of Candidates????

    October 5, 2011 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  11. Jimbo

    She's not as good looking as Palin but just as dumb.

    October 5, 2011 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  12. Brian Dodge

    How is it that all her so called "mistakes" work to reinforce her rightwing point of view? If they were really mistakes, they would average out – so I say she's intentionally picking falsehoods that she hopes to get away with repeating, and KNOWS that she is lying. At least, that's what I've heard &:>)

    October 5, 2011 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  13. Mike Buck

    Michelle needs to fill out her ID TEN T form.

    October 5, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Hey, she's simply hilarious! We need more of that in these dark gloomy days. Keep 'em comin', Michelle. I need at least one good laugh a day and you are absolutely full of misconceptions and mistakes. Seriously hilarious!!! Pretty sorry state of the union when I look for what Sarah and Michelle have had to say int he past few hours. Sarah is all about herself – apparently completely unconcerned that nobody cares, and Michelle is outright crazy – hilarious!

    October 5, 2011 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    ...oh God...will you send this woman some fifth grade reading books....hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    October 5, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  16. matt

    Just what we need in the white house – someone who is impulsive and misinformed.

    October 5, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  17. Sara Volk

    As ambassador-at-large for the nation of North Dakota I would like to welcome Michele Bachmann- to stay the hell away!

    October 5, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. ANGY

    Come on everybody, she is just a sarah palin for 2012.

    October 5, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  19. Questioner

    What is the purpose of this article except to give rude, thoughtless people an opportunity to post rude, thoughtless comments about someone they hate just because she is a conservative? It can't be to have a polite, intelligent discussion of issues, because the article doesn't even address any real issues, and polite comments which intelligently address real issues get censored here, while hundreds of rude, thoughtless comments get posted. Since the comment I submitted this morning in support of Michele Bachmann was censored, while all the rude, thoughtless comments got posted, I am switching to the other news network.

    October 5, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  20. israel

    lol i remember when she said that about obamas trip and everyone in the right side had a heart attack, and then everyone realized that it was from an indian newspaper and was the value of indian rupees, not american dollars....200 million rupees people

    October 5, 2011 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  21. Derek Wain

    As usual, Shannon Travis is unintentionally hilarious. Bachmann did not make a gaffe by calling for the impeachment of Obama. She said exactly what she meant to say. A gaffe is "a noticeable mistake" according to the Merriam Webster dictionary.
    Bachmann's statement was not a mistake at all but rather a rational call for a necessary political action.

    October 6, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  22. Stig

    Palin was bad enough but this bimbo makes her look like a genius, this current crop of GOP hopefuls is really pathetic
    but after the so-called big Lefty (??) Obama sold us out to Wall St & The Big Banks even quicker than John McCain would have it's now plain for anyone to see that our Democracy is just a sham there is NO DIFFERENCE between the parties anymore, they are ALL just front men for our corporate oligarchy.
    Keep arguing over meaningless wedge issues while we ALL get hosed (except for the top 3% richest Americans, they are doing fine thank you very much) forget democracy in Iraq & Afghanistan we need some here at home !!!!.
    The Republicans will win the next election even if they pick a lower primate as candidate, why ?? because we don't vote FOR anyone anymore we vote against the current bunch of crooks out of frustration, what other choice do we have.

    October 6, 2011 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  23. Justwhatweneed

    Just what we need...a person with impulsive tendencies to run the country....I don't think so.

    October 6, 2011 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  24. Cyric

    I was talking to a non-invalid and they said Bachman is a invalid.

    October 6, 2011 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
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