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. Scott

    Imulsive? great, the last "impulsive" person in the WHite House got us in to two wars that still maek no sense.
    DIgests 8-90% of the informatoin but deos not get to the 10-20% that determines the outcome? Great...misinformed decisions are not the way to run a country

    October 5, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. Tim

    How about the gaffe the American public made when they voted for Obama?

    October 5, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. lalaw67

    Yes, go ahead and vote for someome like Bachmann who cannot even get her facts straight. We don't need a leader who will lie in the face of their people. Bachmann sucks!!!

    October 5, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. Tim

    Bud your right. Holder lying to congress (again) isn't news for the liberal MSM or the liberals who ready and listen to them. They don't see a problem with the head of justice lying under oath. Repeatedly.

    October 5, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Scott

    Nothing that comes out of Bachmann's pie hole is intended to be taken as a factual statement.

    October 5, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. Rinos for Winos

    Michelle Bachmann needs to market new product, The Gaffe-o-matic.

    October 5, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. Bob

    You'd think her name was Michelle Biden

    October 5, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Aaron

    The woman is beyond stupid. She makes Palin sound intelligent.

    October 5, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. NoGr8rH8r

    Michelle Bachmann for President?Yeah, Right. I can't stop laughing.

    October 5, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. Reasonably

    So she's a regurgitation machine who doesn't stop to think and/or check facts. Perfect choice for today's political circus. Unfortunately.

    October 5, 2011 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Darius

    Your 15 minutes are up. Please go away.

    October 5, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Shaun H

    If only the press, CNN especially, had vetted Obama the way they vet Republican women then we'd not have the naive, ignorant and clueless running this nation today.

    October 5, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Kweg Yung

    With half of America aging (ready for retirement) and the other half being non-white, it was fairly easy for the Republican party to decide to sell out... In their eyes we're all just expensive liabilities. Communist China is the new place of opportunity! With few regulations and government underlings cheaply bought, it's the new Mecca for Corporate America to exploit ... But not to worry, ye lowly Americans: After the GOP finishes destroying us (U.S.), the rich will be back in droves buying up what's left for pennies on the dollar. When that time comes the GOP will be there again, arms outstretched again, fists filled with cash again...

    October 5, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Bachman. What an embarrasment for Minnesota's voters! What an embarrasment for America! What an embarrasment for women! The only group she doesn't embarrass is the Teatard [R]s. They are every bit as loony and goofy and uber-partisanly gullible as this nitwit, so they welcome and celbrate her malignance. She represents why America is, what does that say about the patriotism of her supporters?

    October 5, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. Mike, Albany

    This is just what we need in the White House: Someone who will order nuke strike on Iran because.... well.... she heard from someone somewhere that they had launched a strike on us. What Keith Olbermann says about Palin applies equally well to Bachmann: "That woman is an idiot!".

    October 5, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. Dan Bednarik

    WOW! look at all the responses - We all criticize the lameness of the GOP candidacy, maybe with exception of Cain. For Bachmann, I think her performance really speaks to a defect in qualifications to become a Senator. One should go to the root to form their opinions. In this case, I would like to know why a PTA-type soccer mom can be elected into this position.. Clinton is right – Americans whine about everything, but we the people elected these folks. Perhaps this speaks more to the shoot from the hip illiteracy of the US? As for Palin - she is like an opportunistic infection, just working the system in reality show mode to make money... really the most insincere spectacle on Earth, and frankly, both women do ALL women a great injustice (recall woman was made from the rib of Adam, as Archie Bunker said: "cheaper cut").

    October 5, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Shaun H:

    They did, actually, and its obvious nothing short of a public execution would satisfy you and rest of the haters. Its just that the accusations reached a ridiculous level, CNN and the rest of the MSM realised the sources were questionable, and they moved on. Its too bad that you and the rest of the Right-wing cabal have not. I guess you hate it when a grossly underqualified candidate is being hammered for being a serial liar and grossly incompetant at the job she already has: can you tell us how many votes Bachmann has made in the House in the last 3 months?

    October 5, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Marc Daniels

    Congresswoman Bachman is a manifestation of what happens when so much hate builds up in one's heart, the perception is clouded. I look at her mistakes as a wonderful signal what is wrong with society. First, we need to recognize this for what it is - grown up bullying. Only then can we address it... Let's weed out this kind of hate, and sow seeds of respect throughout our great country.

    October 5, 2011 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  19. oscar r

    i hope those north dakodians dont retaliate. we should invade them first to protect our freedoms.

    October 5, 2011 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. Factor

    I can`t wait for Saturday Night Live! this better be good.

    October 5, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  21. Poindexter718

    How did god get it so wrong when he chose her? I am worried about god; maybe he should go in for a check-up...

    October 5, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  22. Brad

    What's the big deal?? She's only human. Oh, and the entire Obama presidency is a gaffe.................................................

    October 5, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. petemg

    I really hope that Bachmann steps down and enlists her strength with the others. This whole campaign is getting long and ridiculous. I do believe they should decide amongst themselves who should be the President and then the Vice President. They need to build each other up with the strengths they have. Enough of the Tea Party label and get Palin out of the picture.

    October 5, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. CG, Clarksville

    This is news? We expect quibbling from politicans, both sides, but the media? Com'on,where's the beef?

    October 5, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    "If you tell the same lie long enough and loud enough, there is a generous portion of the uninformed society that will eventually start to believe it."

    Worked during the late 30's and early 40's in Nazi Germany, so why not for Frau Bachmann, eh?!

    October 5, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
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