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. Ladeebugg

    @Marie MD and Mark Whitt..I agree with you all 100%. However, I am sad to inform you all that Bachmann's constiuents in District 6 will continue to re elect her. Eventhough she is queen of endless rhetoric, mud throwing and quoting inaccurate information they love her. I'm a resident of Minneapolis and currently being represented by Ellison and it was a sad day to see her re elected by a landslide.

    October 5, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Richard Ryder

    This woman is not only stupid, but dangerous...she thinks that because the people in Minnesota voted for her that she has the intellect to be president...she does not...she is a sad cartoon of a poliltician as is Sarah Palin etc. These egomaniacal women think they have what it takes and keeps falling short. Palin is at least smart enough to know she would not make it in the real spotlight of real scrutiny. She hides in Fox News and only goes to places who are populated by people dumb or dumber than she is!

    October 5, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Nathan

    I'm no Bachmann fan–by a longshot–but this is not worth reporting. If we nailed every politician for every error of this sort, we would have time to report nothing substantial. The HPV issue was worth reporting because it relates directly to policy and is a matter about which Bachmann had thought (though poorly). Failing to remember the names and the exact number of states with surpluses in some specific year while out on the campaign trail speaking extemporaneously might be evidence that you are unlikely to win a quiz show, but it's otherwise insignificant. Keep your eyes on what is important.

    October 5, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Becca

    "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.."

    Or maybe she figures no one is paying attention (which we aren't) and she can say whatever she wants and will never be held accountable for it. It's a bad gamble on her part, because at least some of us are in fact listening.

    October 5, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Beth

    Her gaffes are good for one thing only.... giving the American people a good laugh. I think the straw poll was her shining moment that burned out as quickly as it was lit.

    October 5, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. Mike

    CNN . . . did you do a news piece when Obama stated that he had visited "all of the 57 states." Probably not . . . because you are only willing to cover gaffes from the Right.

    October 5, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. ObamaYoMama

    Not a bachmann supporter BUT it would be nice to see CNN pick up obama/bden gaffs now and then, especially since it happens on a daily basis

    October 5, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. Republicans - "The Not Intended to Be Factually Accurate" Party

    I find the author`s attempt to throw "offseting penalty flags" on Republicans & Democrats cowardly and disingenuous regarding gaffes.

    I believe CANDIDATE obama was making reference to the number of us territories, states & other jurisdictions. That`s how you get to 57. 50 states + Guam, Puero Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Somoa, etc.

    Given that, the Obama reference to "57 states" is a true mispeak, not a sign of stupidity as it is with Bachmann.

    October 5, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. gran

    Republicans need to stop putting candidates in the forfront just because they are female. There are so-o-o many "intelligent" women who would do far better as a candidate than the last two bimbos they have pulled out of their hat. They need to quit looking at what's outside and find someone with something inside! Wow! Isn't that just how they choose to criticize also?

    October 5, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Cambone

    Bachman is a little too much, I must admit. However, I will start to take articles like this seriously when CNN starts tracking Biden and Obama's gaffes. I don't seem to remember any such articles even though their gaffes (especially Biden's) are legendary.

    October 5, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Mark B.

    Fact check Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Holder & Biden and wade through the thousands of lies, mistakes, "gaffes", inconssitencies and erors. I dare say on any given day, Sarah Palin has a much firmer grasp on reality than these twits.

    October 5, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Paul

    "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.

    This is PRECISELY why she is not fit to be a Congresswoman, let alone President!

    October 5, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. TheAlaskaCurmudgeon

    Wasn't the Republic of North Dakota part of the Axis of Evil? Isn't that why we have all those troops massed on the northern border of South Dakota?

    October 5, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Ms K.

    @gran....you are right....just look at all the "cookie cutter" women that are the republicans standard....combination of either blonde, blue eyes, standard body shape, and I guess easy to look at...all exterior qualities and as soon as they open thier mouths....hot air... no thought process...nad fox news has them all

    October 5, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. MontanaSon

    Hopefully, the objective media will continue to hammer these dumb republicans over their seemingly-minor gaffes, until they, like Biden and Obama, are so competent that they no longer misspeak.

    October 5, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Recovering Republican

    First Palin crashes and burns, now Bachmann. Perry is just a talking head, and the GOP is once again scrambling to put something more than a sound bite together. I would laugh at this, if so many Americans were not being hurt by the GOP rhetoric. If the GOP are as Ameircan as they claim, they would stop ripping America apart for personal lucrative book deals.

    October 5, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Terry

    Is this the best and the brightest the GOP can come up with???!!! And she wants to do away with the Dept of Education!!! RR has to be spinning in his grave

    October 5, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. bud

    It's funny that Bachmann's misstatements make bigger headlines on CNN than Holder lying to Congress.

    October 5, 2011 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. sf

    I think what bothers me the most isn t that she made this one misstatement of facts. It's that she has done it repeatedly and hasn't learned that she needs to do fact checking before speaking. I don't think she really even cares if what she says is the truth as long as it keeps the Obama lynch mob foaming at the mouth. All I can say is that if anyone is insane enough to vote for this woman to hold the highest office in the land, they should be locked up due to being a danger to themselves and others.

    October 5, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Philski

    Easy on the eyes but hard on the ears... Save your money Michele, the end is nearer than you think..

    October 5, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. cf

    How much of her intelligence information comes from "somebody said once..." or "I head somewhere..."? I want presidential candidates who make decisions based on facts and information, not a game of telephone.

    Following the information trail to fact check Michele Bachmann is like listening to REO Speedwagon lyrics: "I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another..."

    October 5, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Dennis

    Your reporter got it wrong too! New Hampshire also had a budget surplus in the last fiscal year.

    October 5, 2011 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. T

    @John
    Hey John, didn't you mean to say "Solyndra?" Solaris is an operating system that Oracle acquired in 2010 and, as far as I know, hasn't been the subject of any government-guaranteed loan. Shouldn't you get your facts straight before you post something on a public forum like this? Or maybe it doesn't matter as much to you because you're not running for office. Good thing...you'd probably get an article written naking fun of your gaffe.

    October 5, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. T

    like someone could say of me and my typo..."making fun"

    October 5, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Katy

    All I can say is vote for Obama. He isn't perfect, but he's the best we've got. AND he's a hell of a good shot!

    October 5, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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