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. Kenny

    "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.

    In other words, she is to stupid to understand what she reads and she is to stupid to understand that not everything she is being told is true.

    October 5, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. d00d

    "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.

    An impulsive Republican who doesn't digest information carefully would make a great President!

    October 5, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. Mitt Who ?

    It is so obvious that the media can not stand the idea of a woman for President. The character assasinations have proved to be equal to a racist point of view towards women.

    October 5, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  4. chuck

    The womans is not relevant anymore-same as Palin. Both has beens with shrinking fan base. She was done when claiming her husband "cures gays" when he is Gay himself.

    October 5, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. Realist

    Palin redux

    October 5, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. rs

    Bachmann, like almost all of the GOP/TP has sworn allegiance to Grover Norquist and his anti-tax "Club for Growth". That tells us that they are NOT Americans anymore. They have an allegiance to one radical little man, above, and not to the people who elected them and certainly not to the majority of Americans or the middle class.

    Round 'em up and vote them out!

    October 5, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  7. Martin

    Bachmann and Palin both keep saying that they're being unfairly treated by the press whenever they make a mistake.

    However, when your mistakes are becoming commonplace, "one little error" after another keeps compounding exactly what we think of these two. WIth Bachmann rapidly collapsing in the polls, and Sarah Palin refusing to even announce that she's running, it appears that the stars should be setting on these two.

    October 5, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. jdc

    big deal, she skewed a minor fact, how would you fare? she is on her toes, and bound to slip up with vultures clinging on every little word, fact is it ran a surplus and she was right, dont miss the point due to blind personal opinions

    October 5, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |

    I still am worried about her kids, I believe she had 25 of them and SHE homeschooled everyone of them.

    October 5, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    Bachmann is a perfect example of many in the TP movement, someone who already has a conclusion and works backwards to a premise. Her selective culling of information while ignoring pertinent details shows that she is not interested in truth or solutions, but ideology.

    October 5, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. FactChecker

    Not true that only four states had budget surpluses at end of FY 2011. At least a dozen states had budget surpluses, including Indiana, Maine, Virginia, Ohio, and South Carolina. There were several stories about this in major news outlets during the summer.

    October 5, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    What about all of the other "mispeaks" and "mistakes" she has made? Particularly her lies and distortions about the ACA like death panels, "most Americans don't like it", etc.

    October 5, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. Mike

    Every candidate makes gaffes. This is no different. Hers are not nearly as bad as some Obama and Biden have made yet the libs will defend those two idiots until the end of time. They'll string Bachmann up but give O and B a pass? Talk about hypocricy.
    Who cares anyway? She will not get the nomination so it is really a non-starter.

    October 5, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Shawn in MD

    President Bachman: (After half of Moscow is bombed out) Sorry President Putin, someone over the fence in my backyard "told" me that you were about to push the button.
    President Bachman's press secretary: She did not listen to the last 10% where her neighbor told her she heard it at "The Onion". But she did listen to the other 90%
    Glen Beck: Putin is a dangerous guy. It had to be done anyway
    Darth Cheney: The Russians will welcome Bachman with open arms
    Shawn Haniity: its a left wing conspiracy
    BHO: LOL

    October 5, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. Frank Huff

    Just passing what I heard (from those drunken soldier) that you, Bachmann, are actually a man spy from Elbonia. You are here to wreak havoc to our nation!

    October 5, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. Charlie from the North

    She was not going for "factual accuracy" she was going for "effect" if you don't want that you will have to vote differently.

    October 5, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. cbline

    Want to know why North Dakota has a surplus? It has nothing to do with the state mineral policies. It has tons of oil and less than 700,000 residents. Not hard to balance the books when oil revenues pour in for so few people.

    October 5, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Mtnmedic

    Here ya go: a Palin-Bachmann ticket! I can see the campaign catchphrase now..."Dumb and Dumber....this time why not the WORST?"

    October 5, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. Al-NY,NY

    She has been irrelevent for a few weeks now.

    October 5, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  20. doug

    See Democrats for who they really are by reading this thread.

    They made no metion of Vice President Biden saying that FDR was president when the stock market crashed in 1929 and that Americans were comforted by FDR talking to them on TV, Americans didn't have tv's in 1929 and FDR was not President.

    What about President Obama saying he had been to 57 states. Maybe Democrats don't know that we only have 50 of them.

    Hate is what breeds double standards and hypocrisy. Is it no wonder that whenever someone engages in a hypocrisy or a double standard that person 100% of the time is a Democrat?

    October 5, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. cestlavie3

    " .... Bachmann has made another that could provide one more piece of ammunition for her critics." Her critics being CNN, the news agency that searches with a fine tooth comb for any slip of the tongue or misspeak she makes in order to bolster their liberal political agenda. And yes, Fox does the same to promote their conservative agenda. Oh for a truly fair and balanced news media outlet. And please don't say NPR or I'll vomit.

    October 5, 2011 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. HockeyMinny

    I wonder what she thinks about the controversy surrounding the name change of the Fighting Sue. Wow, she's a mental giant!

    October 5, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. wiredWeirdinSF

    Read where the drugged out bunch and the union thugs running the Occupy Wall Street scam told all college students to walk out of class today. Of course the right thing to do would have been to tell them to acutally walk in to class or to return all of their government loans, but hey we are dealing with a druggie crowd and they dont really have anything else to do because of the NEA, they really can't under stand anything.

    October 5, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. Common Sense

    All of these "politicians" make mistakes but the one thing that I hold against this one is the fact that she stated that she prayed and God showed her that she should run for President. She decries government spending when she and members of her family have benefited from governemnt largess. When we, the general public of America will learn that there are a lot of very capable people in this country that should or could run for office but can't because the way our current system is set up so we wind up with people like this running for office, gathering money that will eventually be kept and fading into the distant future.

    October 5, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. Brent

    If only the Republican party had a PRESIDENTIAL candidate. Wow! None of these clowns deserves to be president. I feel like I am watching a campaign for homecoming king/queen. Romney, maybe, if he wasn't the Republican version of John Kerry who the base won't vote for. Perry, no. Bachman, no. Palin, dear lord no. Cain, no. Huntsman, may be the most presidential of the group but will the base vote for an Obama appointee? It is a shame they can't put someone up there worth the title of President of the United States.

    October 5, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
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