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. steven STEVENS

    This woman is a prevaricating nut....screws up and her henchperson in the bck ground backs her up with and excuse ever this the best the repubs can do for a member of congress.

    October 5, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  2. Al

    That's just what we need in our Nation's leader, someone who vomits out hearsay and gossip. Just imagine what kind of an international incident this woman could create by spewing out some vitriolic hate-filled comment about a foreign leader without bothering to verify the truth of "what she heard." I'm sorry, but no rational, thinking person could possibly be able to overlook how dangerous a Bachmann presidency would be. If we elect this person we will have lost any and all international credibility, and rightly so.

    October 5, 2011 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  3. yea baby

    She also based her assertion that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation on the fact that she got a shot herself.

    October 5, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  4. Tommy Boy

    She's another Palin.

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

    People elected her. Stupid is as Stupid does. Some would still vote for her. Stupid is as Stupid does. Some people believe she is capable of being President. Stupid is as Stupid does.
    Some believe Boehner when he says raising taxes on the rich will reduce Americam jobs cause trickle down economics has produced U.S. jobs and increased the life quality of our middle class. Stupid is as Stupid does. Not funny, just tragic our country has come to this.

    October 5, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  6. Bernard Webb

    In other words, she an impulsive, out-of-control nutjob. Got it.

    October 5, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  7. jw

    Shut up Michele Bachmann! Your such a idiot! Stop wasting all that money and drop out!

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

    Michelle Bachmann,Rick Perry and Sarah Palin will always prove this proverb to be 100% correct--"-EMPTY VESSELS MAKE MOST NOISE".

    October 5, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  9. David Crawford

    I am pretty fair minded when it comes to politicians being redic...but this article seems that we are starting to nitpick too much for me.

    October 5, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. John

    Even their excuse is a gaff. The oil tax breaks and subsidies are just a bigger case of "picking winners" than guaranteeing a loan to Solaris was.

    October 5, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  11. Just a thought

    I hope this woman gets one fact straight "................YOU ARE OUT OF THE RACE"

    October 5, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  12. Clwyd

    A straight jacket is the only thing that might straighten out this crazed bimbo! Just another idiot republican running for office. I prayed to God yesterday after hearing that the super sized bimbo from NJ wasn't running to make 9 idiots in the race for the republican job of president. God heard my wishes!

    October 5, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    No one is perfect. That being said, you cannot have a candidate for POTUS who is a serial gaffer. This points to a lack of discipline and a certain arrogance that is disturbing, to say the least. Perhaps this is the reason why her own party did not pick her for any leadership posts: in other words, take the hint, Michelle, you don't have what it takes to do your current job, much less the presidency. BTW, how many votes has she cast in the last 3 months? Does anyone know?

    October 5, 2011 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  14. Inrealityhere

    You know what? None of her gaffes bother me nearly as much as our current president who said there are 57 states, bowed to other national leaders, called the corpsmen "corpse" men, ... To name a few. She may not be presidential material but she beats what we have.

    October 5, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  15. Dennis

    The State of Minnesota that gave us Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Orville Freeman, Walter Mondale now gives us Michelle Bachman, very sad indeed. For many years, I worked in an HR Department and everyday I fired people like Michelle Bachman who were really dumb. Hopefully, the good people of her Congressional District will terminate her services in 2012.

    October 5, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  16. purple

    Thanks for noting this. I also look forward to the CNN pieces on Biden and Obama's long list of similar gaffes.

    October 5, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  17. ST

    When will this woman bow out. I praise Christ Christie as I do assume he bowed out because he is not physically fit. I would urge Bachamann to bow out as well because she is quite opposite of Christie. If one is physically fit does not necessarily translate that a person is mentally fit!

    October 5, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  18. GOAWAY

    You would think that she would be intelligent enough to "hang it up" at this juncture. Seriously, she is an embarrassment to women everywhere. OOps sorry intelligent and Bachmann is an oxymoron

    October 5, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  19. FedUp

    And Obama says the US has 57 states. He has visited all of them. What's your point?

    October 5, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  20. JimimTX

    Why does God want uneducated rubes to run for President?

    October 5, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  21. Rick Rosio

    When will we learn to seek the SMART PEOPLE for public office?
    The Republican field is unable to process and articulate independant thoughts and to problem solve and those qualities are not what we as a nation need.
    We need to reduce our military spending, reform the tax codes and raise the tax rate to 50% and then listen to the properous whine.
    Lets start over to the time BEFORE there was rampart fraud and speculation by wall street firms who with the banks conspired to put their personal wealth before the heath of the nation.

    October 5, 2011 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  22. yellow dog

    Do we really want this crazy person with her finger on the button.

    October 5, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  23. GOAWAY

    It is sad that two of the least intelligent political women on this planet are running for President. Is this really all the Republicans can muster. This and acting like fools and voting against everything the White House suggests? Except for THEIR pay of course.


    October 5, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  24. jesor

    She's just rehearsing to become the next Fox News analyst....after all, with half of their staff leaving to become republican presidential candidates they're going to be hiring soon.

    October 5, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  25. Pat in IL

    She doesn't seem to realize that her campaign is over, and that she might as well get out now and save hers and other peoples' money.

    October 5, 2011 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
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