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. Rickster

    make that a democrat majority in the senate.

    October 5, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. Ed

    If I had to choose between the two Michelles, I'd rather have Bachman than Obama in the White House.

    October 5, 2011 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. captnboston

    Bachmann is SO yesterday's news. I find it funny that the "libs" and their news gods continue to quote this woman. She is done, WELL DONE. Let's talk Herman Cain, today's NEWS !!!

    October 5, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. shybou69

    Who cares about Bachmann. Calling her a flash in the pan is generous at this point. I don't think she could get elected dogcatcher in 2012.

    October 5, 2011 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  5. Bill

    This woman will be removed from Congress after next election. She can then spend her days praying away the gay. A real loser.

    October 5, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Stranger in an increasingly strange land

    So her Former Chief-of-Staff says she reads a lot and then occasionally gets the facts wrong. Plus she is very impulsive. Add that to the fact that she is just not very smart, (even a fifth grader knows that states are not nations). This is just the woman the Tea Partiers want to be in charge of the United Staes Military. Not smart enough to check facts and impulsive enough to send young people into harms way because "Somebody told me"

    October 5, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. vel

    This demonstrates that Bachmann is too lazy to check out her talking points or intentionally deceptive and wanting people to believe her lies. How does that square with a woman who claims to be such a good Christian? It doesn't.

    October 5, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. sam

    Who needs silly things like actual facts, anyway? They just get in her way.

    October 5, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    @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.

    Michele's 6th District is bordered by one of a few evangelical mega church's cropping up here in Minnesota. It is also one the most conservative districts in Minnesota. Tarryl Clark ran against her in 2010 ... and even with the support Tarryl received from Bill Clinton, she didn't have much of a chance beating Bachmann. The campaign was brutal, and as you can see from Michele's "gaffs", not entirely truthful. No doubt FOX News followers helped ... Bachmann received mega dollar donations running against Clark, and this particular campaign was one of the most expensive campaigns in Minnesota history. You can't get through to these folks who support her ... they simply don't seem to care just how ill informed and self centered she is. As long as she spouts her occassional "God" talk, they're fine with her.

    October 5, 2011 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. ChrisinGA

    Can someone explain to me why a pipeline from northern Canada to Texas is necessary OTHER than to sell that oil on the global market? Aren't there refineries closer to the oil sands than south Texas?

    October 5, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. Terry

    Wow, dementia at such an early age. This woman forgets, from one day to the next, that most voters have written her off as "questionably stupid".

    October 5, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. dacomer

    So Bachmann's impulsive. That's not a quality I want in a President.

    October 5, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. sf

    "someone told me Russia was going to bomb the USA so i pushed the big red shiny button"...

    WHY IS THIS WOMAN IN OUR GOVERNMENT!!! oh wait, it's cuz this is the type of person republicans aspire to be and support!

    October 5, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Someone has to be the comic relief.

    October 5, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. LYnette

    REALLY??? and she wants to be President of the United States? PLEASE!!!1

    October 5, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. sf

    wait a minute...this will put her up in the republican polls this!

    October 5, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. lawyerScoundrelsLie

    she's a lawyer... she just "doing her job"... forget about ethics and integrity.

    October 5, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. FromMN

    My 5th grader knows more about politics and truth than she does.

    October 5, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Jim

    If Bachman were just someone off the streets, an average Joe, so to speak, then I would agree with the posts here that critics are being too nit picky about her speech. But for a person who is running for the office of president of the United States, I do not think it is too much to ask that the candidate knows what he or she is talking about when mouth is in gear.

    October 5, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |

    "Not smart enough to check facts and impulsive enough to send young people into harms way because "Somebody told me"" sounds like the BUSH presidency with Brainey Cheney LMAO

    October 5, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. TheDuck

    Yet another case of "not meant to be factual". Just think of how badly this "fact challenged" group will hurt America.

    October 5, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. The Real Tom Paine


    People repeat the same tired examples of Obama and Biden's gaffes: the problem Bachmann has is that she keeps feeding people a new one on an almost weekly basis. Its a question of scale, and the scale of Bachmann's mistakes, gaffes, and gross distortions dwarfs anyone in politics today, Democrat or Republican. She has no business in this race.

    October 5, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. logic in LA

    The article asked if we should expect her to check facts before she repeats them- the answer is no. We should hope that she will go away and leave us all alone. The woman could not pass a 4th grade civics test, much less know enough to be President or a member of Congress..

    October 5, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Carol

    Bachmann likes to pass bits of information as an, aside, as she talks to political groups if it fits in with what she is talking about. She uses them as like putting a cap on a jar, as in, now that is finished. Actually it just becomes gossip that everyone can live without. She is not the only Congressperson who shouldn't be there.

    October 5, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. guy

    WOW...Alice Stewart is really earning her money on the campaign trail...hope she's brought lots of white out with her!!!!!
    It must be so embarrassing for her to back-peddle for her boss, to cover up all her mistakes and still keep a straight face about it 🙂 She must have a great sense of humour 🙂

    October 5, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
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