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. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    To Shaun H. – You mean like they did with "W" and were proved right over and over and over and over, and, get it, don't you?! Now go put on your tin foil hat, sit in the corner and repeat the birther mantra like the good nimrod you are!

    October 5, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. delilahjones

    Bachmann is nuts and dangerous. Thank goodness she'll soon be out of the National spotlight. I can't believe Minnesotans elected this loon!

    October 5, 2011 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  3. David

    She's just not very bright. Pretending you don't see it says more about you than her.

    October 5, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Thinks2010

    Everyone makes mistakes now and then. What is troubling with Michele Bachman is the frequency and the fact that her erroneous statements always support her arguments. One wonders if she is operating on the principle of "if you repeat something often enough, people will think it is true."

    This article states that Alaska and Arkansas ran a surplus. Are they still receiving more money back per dollar paid in Federal tax money (as they have for years)? If yes, shouldn't the return at least a portion of that surplus to the federal treasury to be put toward reduction of the national debt or to be returned to states that receive less back than they pay in federal taxes?

    October 5, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. 2buttercups

    Oh where, oh where is the Republican Chair, oh where ,oh where can they be? For the more Bachman gaffes, the country just laughs, oh where, oh where can they be.

    October 5, 2011 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Beer Drinker

    Introducing a "fact" with "I heard just the other day that....." allows idiot republicans like Bachmann to slam the other side with false information. It's lazy, but it works, because you know what? People, particularly the republican red-necks and tea-baggers she's pandering to, are lazy.

    October 5, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. jweller

    She couldn't get a fact straight if her life depended on it. She's either lying or a or profoundly constantly misinformed. Take a look at politifact on her fact record it is abysmal.

    October 5, 2011 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |

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

    October 5, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |


    No, the gaffe was made by the moderator when s/he allowed your comment to get posted.

    October 5, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  9. fissels

    Why doesn't CNN list all of Obama's gaffes?

    October 5, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Dave J

    I feel bad for other women in politics that get facts right, who think things through. Bachmann is setting women in politics back for years.

    October 5, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  11. Neil

    HPV was her waterloo. She played with fire and it burnt her. End of story

    October 5, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  12. Airbagg

    Hasn't Barkmann heard of hear-say? NOT ADMISSIBLE!

    October 5, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |

    abade,abadee...that's all folks! lol

    October 5, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. Robert

    I can understand a misspeaks, "57 states" or asking in what respect that someone agreed with the Bush doctrine. But this is like an old lady whose just repeating gossip. Someone who is running to be the leader of a country, I have high standards that they should at least check what they say before saying it.

    Are their any GOP candidates running that aren't puppets and mouthpieces for the extreme right wing??

    October 5, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. nc2nh

    What a maroon!!

    October 5, 2011 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Kweg Yung

    Stop calling it corporate America! Former American corporations are all in China now and pay zero tax in the U.S. But they do pay tax in China- supporting the communist government. Republicans don't get it, their representatives sold us (U.S.) out.

    October 5, 2011 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. lisaspups

    I wish someone would sew her mouth shut.

    October 5, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. REG in AZ

    "makes her into more of a provocative, controversial figure," Carey added ... or would it be more to the point to say that she is just another self-indulgent politician looking for attention, who will say / do anything to get that attention?

    October 5, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. notborncynical

    Please, just make her go away.

    October 5, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. Emmy Skaddittle

    well with good ole Nrock in the race, she might still have a chance

    October 5, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. Emmy Skaddittle

    I would love to see her win the nomination, maybe even a grabbing ditsy Sarah as her running mate. that would guarantee a reelection for the President

    October 5, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Atul Chaudhary

    How about Obama's 57 state theory? Does any liberal media and liberals remembers it that he said US has 57 states?

    What said is not a big deal because economy keeps changing.

    When will media start asking Obama tough questions? I think they fear that they will be termed racist.

    October 5, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. Linton


    October 5, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. arizonamom

    Open mouth......insert foot. Again.

    October 5, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Linton


    Why doesn't CNN list all of Obama's gaffes?

    October 5, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |

    I'm sure obmama knows that HPV doesn't cause retardation.......what you are drinking? Maybe THAT causes retardation?!

    October 5, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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