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. Boo

    Isn't this how we got into a war in Iraq. Someone "heard" someone to say (to find out he was a drunk) that Hussian had weapons of mass distruction. Can you just imagine Michele Bachmann as president?

    October 5, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  2. terry

    She just makes this stuff up as she goes along. ND is the ONLY state, blah, blah, blah. No it isn't! Keep fact checking this train wreck!

    October 5, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Thank-you, whomever you are for holding Rep. Bachmann to the grindstone on making truthful and honest statements. Her reputation for being for fighting for her beliefs is only exceeded by her capacity to make statements that defy belief.

    October 5, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  4. A. Goodwin

    Nobody in their right minds would vote for this woman. The Keystone Pipeline can wait until there is an environmental review – that is ALL the Obama administration is asking for!!! Your going to build a pipeline through the middle of the United States – dont you think we should make sure that the safety and well being of our property and protection of citizens should at LEAST be considered? The REAL issue is that the State Department was acting in partnership with the oil industry and Canadian government to secure pipeline approval prior to conducting an environmental review – yet the GOP want to make an issue out of this? REALLY? Wow... if she were the President, I would hate to think what our environmental practices would be – oh yeah, that's right – she's the idiot who wants to get rid of the EPA. Sigh...when are Republican's going to catch on that global warming is NOT junk science? Do they even educate themselves?

    October 5, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  5. Independant

    Poor Bacchee, give her a break. She's not anyway going to make it to the final nomination. Focus on Romney, Perry and Cain. Where's Huntsman? He is not even being hunted by his opponents. Everyone ignores him, incl the media. He is actually most authentic guy in the GOP race, but gets the least attention. Poor GOP.. ConservaTEAsm has gone a wee-bit sour over the past two years and that's what you tatse when you say GOP...

    October 5, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  6. DaveM

    And there are people who actually think this woman is presidential material. I fear for our country...

    October 5, 2011 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  7. tallanh

    "...provocative, controversial..."? I would say "...idiotic, unqualified..."

    October 5, 2011 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  8. Roy

    Why don't she just change her name to Sarah Palin, because that's who she sounds alot like and remind us of...

    October 5, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  9. Bob

    When are we going to point out and keep tally of all of President Obama's "latest gaffes"?

    October 5, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  10. Seattle Sue

    Is Bachmann really this stupid or is she doing a lot of drugs? She always looks as if she is high.

    October 5, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  11. m

    Dumb is as dumb does.

    October 5, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. katiedid

    I don't think Bachmann's comment referring to North Dakota as "...a nation..." was a gaff. It is the obvious states' rights mentality of her campaign. The trend Bachmann and other conservatives appear to support is an elimination of federal government influence and control . Without big government, nation states are the apparent consequence.

    October 5, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. Peter Armstrong-See

    As a democrat, Bachman is not a candidate I support. But CNN's (and many other entities' and persons') hysterical focusing on irrelevant missspeaks such as this last one, suggests you should vote for the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, or Wikipedia, instead of for a human being.

    October 5, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  14. DemFL

    That's all TeaBaggers can do, repeat malicious rumors. They are dumb and never check out the facts first. Wave the flag and run...what a mess you all are.

    October 5, 2011 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  15. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    Status Quo.......Bachmann cannot re-invent herself. Minnesota's congressional district six, will continue to elect this gaffe queen.

    October 5, 2011 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  16. Emery

    WHY is this ridiculous excuse for woman still even attempting to run? She makes Sarah Palin look like a Harvard Graduate. Both of them need to fade away into obscurity, and leave politics to the REAL politicians. If they're looking for a circus to join, they can find one easily elsewhere (not to say that politics isn't a circus, but the both of them seriously need to consider joining a REAL one instead of trying to ride this gig like a dead horse.)

    October 5, 2011 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  17. Glenn

    She likes truthy or truthlike statements. They feel true to her. Good for her.

    October 5, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  18. Tony

    Like people who watch Fox News or listen to right-wing talk radio, Michelle Bachmann does not comprehend the concept of fact-checking.

    October 5, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  19. daveindenver

    What a horrible gaff. Oh did you mention that the Obama admin put out a map of their recent trip out west highlighting on a map the states that he was to visit but unfortunately highlighted Wyoming instead of Colorado. It's hard to keep those 57 states in the right place on a map.

    October 5, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. PhillyPhil

    She's simply not a smart woman. Personally, I want a bright, well-educated person as my President. As Achmed the Dead Terrorist would say "She scares the crap out of me."

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  21. Time to Think

    In fairness to Bachmann, her facts are as reliable as the average Republican congressman's, which of course, have seldom had much to do with reality. I can easily comprehend much of the disillusion with Obama and the Dems. What I cannot fathom is how anyone could ever think of a Republican as an alternative choice.

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  22. bobg2

    I'm merely passing on what I have heard: Michele Bachmann is a flake. While she may be entertaining at times, she should get out of the way and let serious GOP contenders get the attention.

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  23. John

    Interesting prespective...I suppose you will also make headlines with your sourse on the 4 states with a surplus because Virginia reported a surplus for the FY ending June 30? Seems no body can get the "right" answer.

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  24. Sparko

    Interesting that she will believe whatever a stranger on the street tells her about anything, but issues like climate change with tons of research and science backing it she refuses to accept. It would be hilarious except she want to be our leader. How in the world has she gotten this far in politics? I'm from MN and am still at a loss to understand how even her gerrymandered conservative district can keep re-electing her.

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  25. dean

    isn't that SOP for tea party candidates–if someone tells you something you want to hear, repeat it as fact?

    October 5, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
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