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. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    This woman is such a tool. Why would you build a pipeline from Canada to Houston? So they can sell the oil on the word market and not in the USA thats why. That is reason number one to oppose this crappy idea! It won't change a thing folks, china and india will suck that petroleum quicker than they can refine it.

    October 5, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  2. EddieInRI

    "So her impulsive nature – coupled with the fact that she sometimes doesn't digest information as carefully as she should..."

    That tells you all you need to know. If she ever made it to the White House (which thankfully she won't), you could probably bet that her "impulsive nature" would end up getting us into a LOT of trouble. And that statement came from her former chief of staff, someone who you would expect knows her quite well...

    October 5, 2011 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  3. gorddicnn

    Face it.. she's not Presidential material. Not even close.

    October 5, 2011 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  4. Durundal

    yeah great, lets support someone who cant even verify the facts or understand things on her own. If all she can do is repeat what others say and pretend its from the mouth of god, heck how much damage can she do when we put her in front of a button that controls our nuclear arsenal. Oh, thats right, shes also a dominionist like Perry...

    October 5, 2011 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  5. John

    Michele Bachmann don't know what she taking about or know anything , so when people tell her something she don't know so she just agree with It and that repeat It think It the Truth. Michele Bachmann has NO Business running for President and she shouldn't even been elected to Congress. It people like her Is the reason Congress can't get anything done. And why Congress can get anything done ,America and the American people keep getting In worse. Flat out Congress Isn't doing there JOBS and are NOT earning there Pay.

    October 5, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  6. Darryl Schmitz

    Public speaking is not easy, I don't care who you are. But that having been said, I do not support Michele Bachmann for president, not because of her speaking abilities but because, like all of the Republican candidates but Ron Paul, she is part of the right wing faction of the GOP that, coupled with their left wing counterparts in the Democratic Party, are part of the reason our federal government is the bloated, bankrupt mess it is now.

    October 5, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  7. Anne

    It really doesn't matter what she says....she will never be the candidate – she really doesn't belong in a any kind of a powerful position, she's irresponsible.

    October 5, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  8. EdSantaFe

    Why does it always sound like this hag is gossiping over the back fence? Someone TOLD me blah blah blah. I HEARD that blah blah blah. Why doesn't she just state the facts and cut the anecdotal crap?

    North Dakota is not a nation, no matter how many times she says it is.

    October 5, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  9. Don

    I've found this to be increasingly common on the Far Right. A belief that they can never admit to being wrong on anything, no matter what the facts clearly show. I consider it a combination of narcassim and fanatacism.

    October 5, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  10. Robert

    She's told everything she knows, whether it is true or not she doesn't care. Parrot!

    October 5, 2011 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  11. Bach-man?

    She's looking more and more like a tranny every day.

    October 5, 2011 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  12. Dean

    Not an issue. People who speak to crowds constantly, in every industry and occupation, are always making mistakes. It happens at meetings both private and public...crowds small and large. In the case of politicians, it gets reported on because the scrutiny is constant.

    The press does not report on Obama's mistakes beacuse if they did, there would be no room to report on anything else.

    October 5, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  13. Kay

    Bachmann has been out of the running for weeks now, ever since she said the east coast was being punished by God with earthquakes and hurricanes. She's a nutball. The only GOP candidate who's even close to being viable is Romney, and he has no hope of beating Obama either because he's a Mormon.

    The Republicans have already lost and they know it. Now they'll just make a show of supporting Romney and hope for better things in 2016.

    October 5, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  14. Richard

    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.

    Maybe she should stop speaking!

    October 5, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. ConservaFASCISTS/TeaHadists/Tea Queda/TeaLiban

    She is alwas twisting the facts. I've never seen a more incompetant person in government.

    October 5, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Chedar

    You can make gaffe once but if it is too often it looks bad. You look like an imbecile in the long run.

    October 5, 2011 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  17. Mark

    C'mon... this is such a minor slip it doesn't even rate mention.

    October 5, 2011 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  18. Robert

    Article "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."

    I am afraid he has the percentages backwards.

    October 5, 2011 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  19. tomc

    She is dumb as a bag of rocks!

    October 5, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  20. LOL

    HAHA, "One NORTH DAKOTA, Under God...For Liberty and Justice for All"...Ah Bachmann, you are too much ;-p

    October 5, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  21. david williams

    I pity the fool!

    October 5, 2011 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  22. Jeff G

    I am not a Bachmann fan so I am not trying to defend her, but this is nit-picking. So what what if she misspoke and said they were the "only". The point I take is that they had a surplus. This is what looks like biased reporting – digging for any little inconsequential thing to make a candidate look bad when in reality it is unimportant. This is not vetting a candidate, this is muck raking.

    October 5, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  23. Norm

    Sarah Palin twin....

    Enough said...

    October 5, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  24. John McKane

    Last night I was talkin' to a man who came up to me – just last night – and he told me that Miz. Bachmann would make a excellent president. And then he disappeared in a puff of sulfur smoke.

    October 5, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  25. rrinbr

    I'm no fan of Bachmann, but this time, I think critics are being a little picky here.

    October 5, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22