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. Joshua Ludd

    Uh, yeah... CNN.. this woman has been doing this for years now. You just refused to connect the dots till it was decided she had to go as a candidate.

    October 5, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Capt. Nemo

    "...[she] leaves out or forgets the 10 or 20% that can change the outcome"

    Or she's just absolutely nutz, or she will say anything that comes into her fevered brain; none of these options is good in a president, wouldn't you say? I mean, close enough just doesn't cut it when the fate of hundreds of millions is on the line...

    October 5, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Seems Bachmann will never let facts get in the way of making a point. False statements may work with Tea Party zealots but not with the majority of voters.

    October 5, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. ivan

    Isn't there a cave she can crawl into?

    October 5, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. StXavier

    Bachman an Palin are two of a kind each are playing to the line light. The people who put Bachman in to office should think next time she runs for office again THEY SHOULD THINK REAL HARD an put some one in who knows what their stalking about.

    October 5, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. R U KIDDING ME

    It is sad that two of the least intelligent political women on this planet are running for President. Is this really all the Republicans can muster. This and acting like fools and voting against everything the White House suggests? Except for THEIR pay of course.

    VOTE THEM ALL OUT!!

    October 5, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Mitt Romney

    "I was merely passing on...what I had heard," she said. DOES THIS IDIOT KNOW THAT IT'S CALLED GOSSIP?

    October 5, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Just Me

    The problem with speaking impulsively is that one can never really trust what she says. The "I heard it from...." is an excuse that she has used often so she doesn't have to take responsiblity for factually incorrect information. This is dangerous. I applaud her for, as her former chief of staff said, reading a lot and taking in a lot of information. But if she is going to spout off these "facts" she needs to clarify first. She needs to be far more careful in the future to make sure her facts are correct and actually refer to her "sources" if she wants to be taken seriously.

    October 5, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. snowdogg

    The "gaffes" are unimportant – her seeming lack of intelligence and experience are of greater concern

    October 5, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. jim

    this lady is never going to leave us folks! So long as she is in office, media outlets will always have a camera in front of her. So long as you keep posting on these pages, she will be given a platform to speak. And so long as we allow politicians to keep us divided, we will only get more of the same from either side. We fight each other and the worlds laughs and cries. What am i going to do? I am going to work hard, stay educated and keep pushing for a better quality of life for me, my family, friends and neighbors and yes even strangers. Why? because i am an American that wants the best for us All. And i can see right through this lady and what she really cares for, which is herself and the hands that feed her. and that's about it.

    October 5, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. wayne

    ....pppsssstttt.....hey Bachmann.....the US voters do not want a fool like you for President......pass it on!

    October 5, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. Sonny

    Hey Bachmann, Are you a cow? I heard you on CNN they you lie too much so you can get a job. You make up stories as you go.

    October 5, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Brad5013

    If the mailman told Michelle that Canada had WMD, do ya' suppose she would attack?

    October 5, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Togo

    Dear Michelle,

    You're a moron. Repeat that.

    October 5, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. Carmen

    Will I need a passport to visit the great nation of North Dakota?

    October 5, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Roger

    When she moved her head I heard something rattling around in there.

    October 5, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. RINO Bil

    ... and this clown doesn't believe we need a Department of Education!!! What with these Republicans?? First Africa is a country, courtesy of Sarah Palin; and now North Dakaota is a nation per Michalle Bachmann. Tell her that she needs a visa if she visits ND. I won't even get into the idiots that want to teach creationism as a science.

    If nothing else, we need a better Department of Education than we have now.

    October 5, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. Straight Shooter

    She did finally 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 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. ChcukB

    North Dakota is a nation? Must have been a Freudian slip; she has secession on her mind.

    October 5, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. DenInNooYawk

    I heard the Earth was flat.
    I heard the Moon is made of green cheese.
    I heard Darwinism isn't true.
    I heard Obama was born in Kenya.
    I heard The Gov'ment brought down the Twin Towers
    I heard global warming was a conspiracy
    I heard
    I heard
    I heard

    October 5, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. yoshi

    come on, this is getting ridiculous – i used to be a reporter and interviewed many people during my – if you tape them and listen to what they say, they make so many errors, misstatements and many times don't make sense – politicians spend their entire day talking, they are human, they WILL make some mistakes – this one is just a slip of the tongue and yet CNN devotes a whole story to it....I used to fix any errors that people had that were obvious errors....

    October 5, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. BeverlyNC

    Michele Bachmann is nothing but a GAFFE. Why on earth do the People in MN keep electing this do-nothing idiot? She has missed more votes in Congress that most members of Congress. She has NEVER been part of or written a bill for passage in Congress. She is clueless about American histiory and could care less about FACTS. For someone who was once a Tax Attorney she knows nothing about them or about economic principles. She is one of the many do-nothing but run their mouth Republicans who needs to removed from office in 2012. NO MORE OF THESE EXTREMIST IGNORNAT REPUBLICANS. WE NEED REAL LEADERS WITH INTELLIGENCE AND A WORK ETHIC FOR HELPING THE PEOPLE – NOT CORPORATIONS – IN OUR CONGRESS. END REPUBLICAN LIES AND OBSTRUCTIONISM – NO MORE IN ANY LOCAL, STATE, OR NATIONAL OFFICE COME 2012. LET'S REBUILD AMERICA WITH PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT WE THE PEOPLE AND WILL WORK FOR THE OATH THEY SWORE TO SERVE US – NOT CORPORATIONS.

    October 5, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. Paul1st

    Christie takes a pass. Now the big money Republican donors will vote with their campaign contributions. Bachmann is not attracting their attention, so her campaign is ultimately doomed. In the meantime, she can continue to use her remaining time in the spotlight to highlight her agenda. Will she fare as well as Palin in retaining a hard core base from which she can build a personal fortune?

    October 5, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  24. WDS

    North Dakota is running a surplus because they tax the oil the rest of us then have to pay for. Maybe other states should tax stuff they send to North Dakota?

    October 5, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. pfreda

    who let her out of nut house

    October 5, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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