Bachmann's latest gaffe adds to a long string of them
October 5th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
11 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. mark whitt

    this woman is just what the koch brothers want in power ! they can tell this women any thing they want to and she will believe them ! this is so sad that some one like this can get elected to congress !

    October 5, 2011 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  2. Daydreamer

    She doesn't matter anymore. Quit covering her. She's as cooked as last Thanksgivings turkey.

    October 5, 2011 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  3. Marie MD

    Reading a lot of information is wonderful. Not retaining or changing that information around to suit her bashing of the President, that's bad.
    She needs to stop he campaining. She had no chance at the beginning and she has even less chance now.
    Go work with your big boy marcus at this pray away the gay clinic. I really don't think, unless her constituents are really that stupid, that she will be reelected.

    October 5, 2011 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  4. Citizen

    Half-Term-candidate Bachman has spoken, and it wasn't intended to be a factual statement; like most of what she's been saying all along.

    October 5, 2011 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  5. JPNAmerican

    I can see this being a very serious problem with international relations

    October 5, 2011 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  6. G Foster

    Bachmann is a pol that does not want to be hamstrung by truth or facts. She comes across as being an Obama hater and will make up anything to discredit him. To Bachmann priority one is to create a headline with the press.

    October 5, 2011 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  7. AEJ

    Two words to decribe this woman – CRAZY WOMAN!!! She should not criticie government so much as she has benefitted TREMENDOUSLY by this BIG Govt. POOR WOMAN!!!!!

    October 5, 2011 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  8. jimatmadison

    I asked a piece of limestone what it thought about Michele Bachmann.

    "Well, she's way dumber than me." it said.

    October 5, 2011 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  9. wild bill


    October 5, 2011 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  10. don

    OK Michelle. Off the stage and sit next to Sarah.

    October 5, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  11. T'sah from Virginia

    She's been "gaffing" all along and the MEDIA build her up to CRASH!! On top of that, she "bought" all of her votes in IA and it did not hold up. She appeals to a small number of people but has the BIGGEST GAFF MOUTH in all history!!!

    Her followers are BLIND!!

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 5, 2011 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  12. Texas

    Republican voters drink thirstily from the FOX News spigot of shamelessly, factually incorrect statements and downright misleading republican rhetoric. Why would any republican voter care in the least if Michelle Bachman says anything innacurate. It's all part of the same noise.

    October 5, 2011 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  13. Kodes100

    Michele Bachmann is inaccurate again!
    How many times does she have to misquote or lie about things before people hold her accountable?
    Does America need a President they cannot trust with facts??

    October 5, 2011 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  14. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Michele should go home, I almost fee sorry for her, but then I remember her lies, and think, maybe its Karma. Republicans want an end to pesky regulations. According to them, if there are no regulations on snake trafficking, that is good, because people in south Florida will have a cheap source of the new white meat, Burmese Python.

    October 5, 2011 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  15. Albert911

    Just because you heard it somewhere, or maybe you read it somewhere, doesn't make it a fact. This is a truth both Bachmann and Sarah Palin have yet to learn. Palin especially, when told that what she said was wrong, will often double down and refuse to admit that she was wrong.

    October 5, 2011 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Can you imagine Michele, or any republican presidential candidate, being in charge of 'fixing' social security or medicare? They are using the same economic mindset that gave us the first great depression, and the near depression of 2008. And the American people are willing to put their retirement years in the hands of morons who do not believe in social programs.

    October 5, 2011 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  17. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    She is losing her credibliity (if she had any to start with) fast. She fails to understand what she is talking about much of the time. She is why Palin is not in the race; she takes Palin's idiot spot. Perry is taking her thunder and much of her ability to fund raise. People are leaving her campaign. I wonder if she is going to quit soon. It would take away from the fun factor on the campaign trail. Maybe she could get the VP spot on Cain or Romney's ticket.

    October 5, 2011 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  18. Dan Harley

    The only way Obama can win re-election is if Bachman somehow won the Republican ticket.

    October 5, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  19. DA

    Uh, why is anyone surprised by her gaffes? I mean read the first line of this "After a string of high-profile gaffes, Michele Bachmann has made another" LOL!!! So you tell me why in the world did anyone, heck for that matter MB herself think she should run for President!!! This lady has been spewing gaffes since she been in Congress!!!

    October 5, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  20. cathy raats

    Heaven help us in the rest of the world if she doesn't know what is happening in her own country. She shouldn't be given the leadership of a leading world country where she can create havoc in the wider world.

    October 5, 2011 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    the Republican presidential candidate again repeated something she was "told" that turns out to be inaccurate.
    Somebody must've also "told" her that she had a good chance at being the next president.

    October 5, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  22. Dave

    This woman is such a huge joke, I don't even know where to begin...

    October 5, 2011 07:44 am at 7:44 am |

    She pulled another Palin. Her campaign has been dead for weeks but she still misses more votes in the House than anyone.

    October 5, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  24. maximusvad

    Looks like 4 more years of Democrats come 2012.

    October 5, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  25. peggy

    Personally, if someone just makes a gaffe in an off-the-cuff statement, I don't make a big deal about it. People make mistakes. It's when people deliberately lie to make a political point,i.e., Heman Cain saying he would've died under the Affordable Healthcare plan, is out and out lie. Unfortunately, when you make too many of the type of mistakes Bachmann makes, it just makes you look stupid.

    October 5, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
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