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. PhonyRepubs

    Oh yes CNN, be sure and call out the few little misspeaks that Obama made
    The article is about Looney Bachmann , not our president
    As usual, CNN with their double standards. Making this story to fit their needs. Typical!

    October 5, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. jam

    Why hasn't anyone mentioned that she was paid well for every one of those 25 foster kids she took in. She has never mentioned that. She makes it sound as if it was done out of goodness from the bottom of her heart.. Many times people take in foster children for extra income, and they are not treated the way they would treat their own. This is another lie by omission, that can be added to her many miss-truths. It makes her sound like such a big hearted gracious person to let people think she did it out of the goodness of her heart.

    October 5, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    @ 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.

    As many have already said on here, that is the one Obama gaffe the cons always seem to fall back on: Bachmann provides grist for the mill virtually every week with her inane comments that defy description. This article is about Bachmann, who seems to think she can succeed Obama: can you honestly say she is ready for anything?

    October 5, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  4. PhonyRepubs

    Oh please one cannot compare Bachmann to Obama

    After ALL Bachmann's misspeaks people want to compare! Bachmann is a known loon. Pres Obama is NO T!!

    October 5, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  5. amitavo

    as elected representatives, it should be their civic duty to make sure what they speak is based on verified facts, and not what they 'heard' !
    for someone with aspirations to be the most powerful man/woman in the free world, is asking for accountability that hard or irrational ?

    October 5, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Peridot

    She's no brighter than Bush II, and look what he did to the economy.

    October 5, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. Chartreuxe

    She's no brighter than Bush, and look what he did to the economy. We can't afford this level of stupidity again.

    October 5, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Barry G.

    There is no doubt about it, a person needs to have alligator skin to be a politician, given the harsh and often cruel comments that are often made.

    This is good because our politicians need to be held accountable. It is bad, because far too often people focus on the petty matters and overlook dealings and policy matters, which should be scrutinized carefully.

    Furthermore narrow-minded partisan assaults and harsh treatment may (and probably does) discourage good and decent candidates from entering officer. This leaves politicians to what we have and now have.

    October 5, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    @Ladeebugg – I sent Clark money last year for her election and will do so again this year. I couldn't believe that this flake of a woman won yet again.

    October 5, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. Runmoe

    Bachmann is ignorant. Bachmann is nuts. I rest my case.

    October 5, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. bailee

    Michelle Bachmann has already lost her bid for the presidency! She didn't even make it to the primary election. She is history!! Let's move on and get over it!!

    October 5, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. JB

    She's supposedly a lawyer. Who'd hire such a lawyer, one who is so loose and fast with the facts? Not me. And not America for her as President.

    October 5, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Q: President Bachmann, why did you nuke Russia?
    A: A person from Alaska yesterday told me they saw Russian nuclear warheads headed towards the US.

    October 5, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Mitt Who ?

    Excuse me but I have heard tales of autisim related to other required vaccines from parents all over.

    October 5, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. Austin

    Do we want someone with access to nuclear weapons, who makes decisions on hearsay and half truths? We've got a big decision to make in 2012 and I hope we get better choices than the ones we're getting now on both sides. I really hope a third party candidate shows up....

    October 5, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Polly Anna

    "Someone told me the other day that clouds were made of cotton candy and that rivers flowed chocolate.""They also said that money grew on trees, and Michelle O'Bachmann would be our next President!""Duh,if one of our fine american citizens said it, it must be true!"

    October 5, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. centsless

    Really, yes move on chances for POTUS = zero.

    October 5, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. Nash

    Another flavor down the pipes. NEXT!

    October 5, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. PaulMc1981

    She's hawt. But not very bright.

    October 5, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  20. STEVE

    What a 'ditz'!! It's not quite a 'toss-up' whose more ignorant – her or palin – I'm starting to believe that they both have an extra gene, LOL

    October 5, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  21. Benjamin

    Ehh, not quite a gaffe, more like an oversight. Certainly not at the level of the HPV vaccine claim of 'retardation.'

    October 5, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. destruk

    That's it! We're going to war with the Nation of North Dakota next – they are hiding Al Queda!

    October 5, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Ms Q

    She didn't make a "gaffe", she's just use to lying and people believing her lies. The tea party darling never expected for people to wise up and actually fact check. Its sad that many of our news segments have to be devoted to clarifing someones "gaffes". It just shows what type of people we have running our country.....

    October 5, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Joel P. Luongo

    I recall another one of her many gaffes.. When President Obama went abroad to promote American made goods in South America.. bachman said.." the travel costs of the trip were something like $1 million a day in tax payer money " making President Obama appear to be spending too much of tax payer money. Just another time of republicans mis-leading idiology. Americans are finally catching on to it!

    October 5, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  25. glm

    Let's keep Bachmann in the Nation of Minnesota and get on with the Repub nominating process.

    October 5, 2011 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
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