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. puppet

    This puppet has a loose string, does not always do what exactly the puppeteer wish it to do plu she gets those nast puppet migraines not to mention puppet pms which is ppms. Bye Michelle, been fun.

    October 5, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. bill

    It could be worse. We could have obama for 4 more years.

    October 5, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Nope

    I don't want an impulsive person having access to the nuclear football.

    October 5, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. WatchDawg

    A friend of my mothers, sisters cousins, boyfriends new girlfriends ex-father-in-law sister from his moms third marriage told me....blah blah blah...

    October 5, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. BigBee

    She just can't learn to put her brain in gear before she engages her mouth – like most politicians.

    October 5, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Mark

    Shocking... We should make her list all 57 states...

    October 5, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. GeorgeBos95

    So, what's your point? That Bachmann is an idiot?

    We already know that, and she keeps proving it.

    Maybe her husbands brain-washing clinics can take her in and turn her into true Presidential material ... just like they can turn gays to straights.

    Or not.

    October 5, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. Tom in Mn, but not being from her district, it gives one pause to wonder just how she manages to be re elected. This woman is almost a twin of SP! But then it is no coincidence that she is no longer in the 'tax attorney' business. If she drops out of this GOP race where do we get our 'comic relief'??

    October 5, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Clyde Botwin

    The only thing scarier than Michelle Bachmann is the fact that thousands of people send their money to her.

    October 5, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Jim

    Too things a person with integrity or a true Christian would not willingly do, gossip, as in 'somebody told me .." or "bear false witness" for personal gain. She repeatedly proves she lacks integrity and she loves to bear false witness.

    October 5, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Noodle Nose Johnson

    She'll be speaking at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. At the Commonwealth Club, the dingbat will “present her views on pro-business economic policies that will allow private sector businesses to compete in the global market (kill unions) while addressing the need for job-skill retraining (barge toting and bale lifting for dummies), innovation, comprehensive tax reform (tax cuts for the rich) and reduction of regulations that threaten jobs (botulism. yummy!). She will also share her thoughts on how to revive America’s competitive edge and restore the United States to the top of global competitiveness.”

    Seriously. You cannot make the stuff up.

    October 5, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. DIANA

    I was told that Michele Bachman will win the Presidency – so it must be true.

    October 5, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Evan

    It is both reckless and dangerous to have politicians that continually espouse these types of falsehoods for political gain; the people that do pay creedence to them, in turn, spread this type of misinformation as truth. The people need to be informed and aware, not deceived. We can ill-afford this type of political atmosphere!

    October 5, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. josephine

    If she ever needs a job after her tenure in congress, she'd be a shoo in at
    fox news network.

    October 5, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. John

    Each Palin clone shows anew how one can operate without any synapses firing.

    October 5, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Steve

    Boy, she's turning into a regular George W. Bushisms, Palinisms, Bachmannisms. There is apparently lots of room on that side of the aisle for this kind of silliness.
    And don't bring up Obama's '57 state' thing. He does not consistently put his foot in his mouth. One slip up in several years is not the same thing.

    October 5, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Karaya

    She must have been vaccinated way too many times then...

    October 5, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Seth

    Michelle if you are reading any of this...please get out of the are embarrassing not only yourself but your family as well. You are not meant to are not Hillary Clinton, you are merely a puppet for the Republicans to blast Obama with...pretty much a majority of America thinks you are a joke when it comes to politics...maybe the William Hung of politics? You think you are good and people encourage you because you are good for a laugh.

    October 5, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. Peter

    Some on the right have said that it is unfair for the media to play up these mistakes. This comes from the same crowd who keeps bringing up Obama's "57 states" gaffe. Different rules for the home team, I guess.

    October 5, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Sammy Lunchmeat

    The folks in Iowa will believe about anything out of her mouth! Michelle can anything since they represent her sort of thinking, Stepford!

    October 5, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Thatguy371

    Down south here in the nation of Georgia this chick would probably win. All that's required here is an "R" beside the name. No intelligence, no qualifications. Nothing. Just an R will do.

    After the announcement of R.E.M.s breakup recently, Michele Bachmann prepared a statement about the legacy of REO Speedwagon.

    October 5, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. AndrewinMD

    What a hackjob, partisan article. I don't particularly care for Ms. Bachmann as a Presidential candidate, but to say that her statement in this case is worse than Obama saying he visited 57 states is ludicrous. She did caveat it by saying that someone told her that ND was the only state, and the fact is that ND is one of only a very few states running a surplus. Her comment about natural resources also holds true for Alaska, which relies on oil revenues. Which states have surpluses is also a not-very-known fact, given that no one in the audience questioned her misstating it, yet I think it's safe to say that it's COMMON KNOWLEDGE how many states there are in the US. I would also think it a show of respect to remember who swears you into office, unless you don't take it seriously, and someone involved in the highest reaches of the US government should know who was President when the stock market crashed in 1929.

    October 5, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  23. Mark

    For some reason CNN and the rest of the mainstream media thinks Michele Bockman is "too dumb to be president".... And yet we have Joe Biden a heartbeat away from it...

    October 5, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  24. Mark

    The best thing I like about Michele Bockman is that she scares liberals to death...

    October 5, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. Scott

    Wow, most commenters need to take a chill. Yes, she should clarify things before presenting them to the media, but she was not presenting this as fact, she was saying "someone told me that..." I think this country would benefit if each one of us tried to be more loving and invite some compromise into political debates. If you don't like her, don't vote for her. But don't trash talk about her. Simply vote for somebody you want to see elected. We need less bashing and more loving.

    October 5, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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