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. Doug

    She's dumb, just like most Americans. I say let her be president.

    October 5, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. streetsmart

    The GOP would improve their image a great deal by not allowing idiots like bachmaN PALIN PERRY RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE

    October 5, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. msyellarose

    Geez, does this woman ever do ANY research?

    October 5, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. RalphIL

    Even if she misspoke a bit about which states who cares. Are we holding four states with surpluses: Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota as a model for the rest of the USA. The combined population of these states is 5.3 million, only 60 percent of the population of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. What works in the small does not always scale up well!!

    October 5, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Really?

    I don't see what the problem is. W started a war in Iraq because of unsubstantiated "facts" about weapons of mass destruction. That war is still going on. W constantly mispoke and used strange words he seemed to make up as he went along. No one on the right seemed to care. Fox News recently stated that war is good for an economy. That's a "fact" too. Look how much good two simultaneous wars are doing for our economy. Let's stay the course, as Reagan used to say. Why start checking facts now? Maybe Bachmann can get us into a nuclear exchange with India because they're so close to China and clearly because of that are sympathizers with the commie way of life. Seriously? Don't worry about Bachmann. She's following the Sarah Palin career guidelines. She'll be constantly in the spotlight, write a book, go on expensive speaking tours to kool aid drinkers and never ever get near the White House.

    October 5, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. ART

    Can you say flake, this wild eyed bobble head really thinks she can be President? that is just so amusing.

    October 5, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. Tea Party

    Yes pumping and investing in more non-renewable resources will get us off the dependencies for them..dumb dumb dumb.

    October 5, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Bambam

    Who cares what she says. She's SO irrelevant now.

    October 5, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Rick

    I detest this woman and everything she stand for but frankly this is making a mountain out of a molehill. There is more than enough not to like about her without pointing out every inaccuracy, especially when it is irrelevant. Fact is, piling on like this probably does more harm than good in terms of painting her as nothing more than a farce.

    October 5, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. JFritz

    How did this person get through college, let alone law school? Obviously, in this country, dumb is the new cool.

    October 5, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. Bill

    Oh please... this hardly qualifies as a gaffe... what she said was materially true.. .ND has a surplus.. it just happens that there were 3 other states that had surpluses so the only mistake was the word "only." Her mistake about the HPV immunizations was much more significant and she showed poor judgment in repeating what was told to her because the essence of what she was told was simply false. Unfortunatley for Bachmann... she is like a football player who develops a reputation for fumbling...everyone tackler now tries to go after the ball. CNN is irresponsible for portraying this as a gaffe... it is no such thing.

    October 5, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. cf

    What the article doesn't state is that, while ND may be showing a surplus, they only got their through a combination of drastically cutting police and patrolman jobs, letting roads and bridges go to hell instead of paying to fix them, accepting state stimulus money from Obama, and raising state taxes astronomically.

    October 5, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. cj

    Can we just say now the GOP is starting to see that Ms Bachmann is not Presidential material , something some of us, not sold on her from the beginning, have seen all along. Her handlers can not handled her , so most have quit....do I see a book coming....Mmmmmmmmmmmmm

    October 5, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. CEL1

    major excuses, I was told, I heard, somebody said, they say. Come on, Bachman, you are starting to sound like Palin. We deserve better than another ROGUE MOMMA...................

    October 5, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  15. Questioner

    In the 2008 campaign cycle, a certain news network gave $3000 to Dems, $0 to Reps. I think that explains the article better than anything.

    October 5, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Vince

    Well on the way to making Michele Bachmann a "ONE TERM PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE".

    October 5, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  17. sheppard

    "Impulsive" is not the first word that comes to mind in regard to this woman....

    October 5, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  18. Dan

    Well, at least she doesn't think our country has 57 states (Obama does, after all that's how many he said he visited) and at least she knows the word is 'corpsman' and not "corpse-man". Gee, Obama is a graduated from Harvard and is supposedly a Constitutional scholar and he thinks there are 57 states and "corpse-man" is correct. After all he did read "corpse-man" . twice off his teleprompter.

    October 5, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  19. sortakinda

    Bachmann: "Don't EVER bother ME with facts! It's EMOTION that counts!"

    October 5, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. sunpacific

    Her former chief of staff says that she has an impulsive nature. Just who we need in command of the mightiest country on the planet: someone who believes anything, verifies nothing, and, yet, is willing to take impulsive action. Presidential material, I think not. This just goes to show you the caliber of people the Tea Party can serve up.

    October 5, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  21. bobcat2u

    Yeah, we absolutely need someone in the highest office who takes heresay as gospel, and pass it on with no verification. What if she "heard" from someone that Russia was about to launch it missiles at us ? Would she order ours to be turned loose before she checked it out ?

    October 5, 2011 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  22. truth71

    Once again, this is CNN posting opinion as fact. 90% of the article focuses on Bachman's gaffes and political missteps and how "unique" they are in relation to how she uses them towards arguments.
    When you get to the main Ticker page, take a look at the headlines for the individual artocles. All in realtion to the GOP, all negative in one way or another. Nope, no media bias here.
    Oh, and it's interesting to see that CNN still has yet to post a single word from their main page about George Lopez's racist comments about Herman Cain, but they dove right into Hank Williams' "Hitler" remark.

    October 5, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. Jslam

    I'm sure if I told her gullible was not in the dictionary she would believe me.

    October 5, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. Emerald Laughter

    The Truth is always getting in the way of Republican talking points. Damn Truth!

    October 5, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. George

    Hey Michelle, Those who quit public service, live longer, make more money and have a greater impact on fixing what's wrong with this country. So, will you do it, please?

    October 5, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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