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. Straight Shooter

    She did fianlly reveal who it was that told her about her daughter suffering from 'mental retardation' after the HPV vaccine – It was her own Mother!!!!!!

    October 5, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  2. A Repulbican

    What does she do besides criticize the president, im a tax payer and im sick and tired of her using my money NOT toa do her job which is write legislation!

    October 5, 2011 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. Mark

    She is her own worst enemy. If she's making these kind of mistakes as a candidate, think of the types of mistkes should would make as President. Yikes!

    October 5, 2011 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  4. JC

    It would be interesting to have Ms. Bachmann, Ms. Palin, and Miss Teenage South Carolina compete on a Jeopardy segment. My money is on Miss Teenage South Carolina.

    October 5, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. andrewstl

    i would love to sit in a staff meeting of this mess of a candidate.

    she is nothjing more than a cartoon charachter

    October 5, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  6. phyllis

    Michele Bachmann, does not need to be running for any office..........She is just as nutty as Sara..........These two people should go home, and shut up....every time they open their mouth to say something, it is something they know nothing about...........What would happen to this great Country, of the tax payers, if these two fools, were to win this most important office of this Country.......We would all have to run for our lives............peace out...........

    October 5, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  7. A Repulbican

    We're are guaranteed to have at best a moderate president (Mitt) if we win and these cook tea party people will just have to sit back and take it for ears to come, thank god for Mitt! I'm first to say if it aint Mitt then let it be obama, which I rather thave in their than one of these crazy tea party people that would be disaster!

    October 5, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. ChumBucket

    Ok, so she said that "someone told her...." and that is worthy of CNN's time and resources???'

    seriously, you guys need to try harder.

    October 5, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |

    Do we no longer have CURRENT EVENTS when current politicians are running for current offices? Why do we have to go BACK 2 to 3 years, bringing up PAST Politicians speaking mistakes? I am sorry that is not balanced reporting. In many cases what is passed off as a mistakes in speaking is cover for not knowing what one is speaking about. In the old days it Cardinal sin not to know your AUDIENCE.

    October 5, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  10. Oldie in TampaBay

    She is CLUELESS. Another GOPer soon to bite the dust (thankfully).

    October 5, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  11. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    I have a proposal for the people of Minnesota. One that will save them significant money. Elect me to represent you in congress. I won't actually ever go to Washington, not vote on any legislation, I'll travel to other states and tell them I love them better than you, and I'll lie about everything you ask me. But here is the kicker...I'll do it for 1/2 the money you're paying Bachmann to do the same thing. It's win win!!

    October 5, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  12. doncheach

    Is anyone really surprised??

    October 5, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  13. AL in West Palm Beach

    So Bachman put her FEET in your mouth AGAIN...


    October 5, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  14. DE

    Someone told me that this woman is a complete idiot.

    October 5, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  15. Squigman

    It would be no surprise in the future if the republican party, were to be compared with various forms of mental illness. There has to be something wrong with the people that voted her into office, and those who believe she's presidential timber. There has got to be a time when the hate from the republican party is seen for what it really is. It's no more than a ploy to gain control, and influence the lives of freedom loving people everywhere. And the motivation will come from corporations, eager to bolster the bottom line.

    October 5, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  16. Larrold

    The woman is dumb as a fence post, let's face it people.

    October 5, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  17. Beverly - NYC

    She is just the gift that keeps on giving. Clearly, Minnesota did not pick the brightest light to represent that state. How bad was her opponent in the last election? Congresswoman Bachmann has never proposed or sponsored a major piece of legislation, yet she continues to draw a paycheck and health benefits she would deny the the average American. Only in America folks.

    October 5, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  18. todaypost

    her former chief of staff told Cooper his former boss is "impulsive." ......................Ouch!!!!!!!!!

    October 5, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  19. HS

    Simply irresponsible to use the "nation" of North Dakota as an example for the country as a whole. North Dakota is large in area, but small in population (only Wyoming and Vermont have fewer people). If the whole U.S. had the low population density of North Dakota, our population would only be about 36 million, but the U.S. actually has about 312 million.

    October 5, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  20. InBoston

    Bachmann said: "I wasn't speaking as a doctor. I wasn't speaking as a scientist."

    No, she was speaking as a lying political hack!

    October 5, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  21. Charlie

    When Bachman makes a gaffe it is big news, because they don't happen as frequently as those of Biden and Obama. We simply expect them form those 2 so it is not news.

    October 5, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. Marcy

    Why does anyone even care about what this woman has to say? She's just a pretty face on an uninformed loudmouth.

    October 5, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  23. Dave J

    This woman is the Queen of all the idiots. I hope she wins the Republican nomination and becomes President; for this country is slowly but surely becoming the IDIOT Capital of the World.

    October 5, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  24. Neo

    She says anything and everything. Accurate and inaccurate, appropriate and inappropriate. Grasping on straws if you like.

    October 5, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  25. edpeters101

    Obviously another teacher failure. Where is Sarah?

    October 5, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
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