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. kisses6350

    Well, she does provide a vital service. Most of the material for the late night comedy circiut!

    October 5, 2011 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. cm

    I'm sure she's having thoughts of dropping out of the race soon. She will never be president of the United States. Maybe of a charity organization of some sort.But I praise her for her courage. But she will never put any cracks in the ceiling.

    October 5, 2011 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  3. Alex

    Must be that corndog stuck in her throat!

    October 5, 2011 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  4. thomas

    Keystone Pipeline ?

    Why is the GOP so against renewable energy , technology and innovation ?

    Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann on Tuesday reintroduced the "Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act," a bill to repeal a 2007 law mandating that incandescent light bulbs be phased out.

    "The government has no business telling an individual what kind of light bulb to buy," she said in a news release Wednesday. "In 2007, Congress overstepped its bounds by mandating that only 'energy efficient' light bulbs may be sold after January 1, 2012. This mandate has sweeping effects on American families and businesses and needs serious consideration before taking effect."

    Bachmann's light is on , but nobodys home !

    October 5, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  5. Kevin in Atlanta

    You have to admit...she would be a very entertaining president.

    October 5, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  6. DanoMcRoo

    OK. So Bachmann screwed up by calling North Dakota a nation. We all know that it's actually one of the 57 states.

    October 5, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  7. Alkali

    We shouldnt judge Bachmann's eligibility on her misquotes and her gaffs. These candidates are talking in front of hundres or thousands of people, live, and know that what they say will be analysed and broadcast across the nation. The pressure they have on their shoulders is something I personally could not bear. Lets judge them on their policies not how much bullshit spews from their mouths.

    Personally, I believe she is a terrible candidate, almost as bad as Palin. You get the feeling she would just be another puppet president like our good 'ol Mr. Bush was. Out of the GOP candidates, the only one I would vote for is Ron Paul, but then again his policies arent what I would agree with 100%. Our former president screwed up alot, got us involved in 2 wars and indirectly drove the economy to the brink, and he still got a second term even when it seemed that the whole nation was against him. I think we should give Mr. Obama the chance to finish what he is trying to start, because we can admit that the House and Congress are making things difficult for him.

    October 5, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  8. EvilGenius7

    Meanwhile, poor Ron Paul is starving for attention......

    October 5, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  9. Big Al

    Spreading rumour and falsehoods about her enemies like a coniving highschool gossip is no way to run for president. She and others are learning this the hard way.

    October 5, 2011 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  10. JPX

    It really is scary that we live in an age where people this stupid are able to gain any sort of political momentum. I blame McCain for unleashing these anti-science, anti-environment dopes.

    October 5, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  11. Jim

    Perfect Tea Party Rep. Airhead through and through. I do appreciate, however, the freedom we have to not only run for office (I deeply respect anyone, including Michelle, who has the courage and desire to run and serve this country) but our freedom to choose. I just wish we had better choices that reflect ALL OF AMERICA instead of the "cash" that controls who has a "voice". No wonder this country is just so polarized by a minority who just happens to have a great deal of cash.

    October 5, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  12. The Elephant In The Room

    Why do all the Republican wingnuts attempt to gloss over their shortcomings with word smything? Bachmann chalks her stupidity up to being "implusive". Hank Williams Jr., is "passionate" – that`s why he essentially called our President "Hitler", Rick Perry too was being "passionate" when he said he favored a Texas mob beating up Fed Chairman Bernake. If we dug, we could find similar excuses for the pettiness, immaturity and lack of mental capacity that characterises so many of the 2012 Republican field.

    I`m glad we have a dignified, erudite Chief Ecexuctive in the Oval Office instead of these uncultured yahoos. The world respects us so much more because of it.

    PS: Does Bachmann have a regular, 3 year Juris Doctor [JD] – law – degree? I seem to recall something funny in her academic & professional qualifications. Kind of like graduating from correpondence law school – but not quite that bad.

    October 5, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  13. Sparko

    Never bother with fact checking do ya Michelle....but there you were always the biggest cheerleader for W who started a war on the thinnest "intelligence". You'd think that even these anti-intellectuals would google now and then to see if that person on the street was correct but I guess who has the time when your busy talking the nonsense that passes for conservative ideology these days.....

    October 5, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  14. Don

    Dear GOP, please select this simpleton to be your candidate in 2012! It would be so consistent with your current course of self-destruction. Thx!

    October 5, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  15. Debbie from Arizona

    This woman is unbelievable. I just hope that the folks in her district in Minnesota are paying attention to this loon that they elected to represent them and this is her last fliing in the political arena. She needs to be kept as far away from Congress and any decision making process.

    October 5, 2011 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  16. Moorbo

    "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"
    Replace statements with decisions in the above, and someone tell me why they think this person would make a good president.

    October 5, 2011 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  17. LovesIrony

    it makes her into more of a provocative, controversial figure," Carey added. NO it makes her more of an idiot. Hey Michele read this and repeat at your next forum. Michele Bachmann is an idiot.

    October 5, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  18. Zpk

    I, for one, am excited at the prospect of a president who makes decisions based not on silly, insignificant facts but on unchecked things she's heard from random people. For once, we may have exactly what this country, nay, this planet needs: a sewing circle cabinet, mahjong policymaking. What a wondrous time we live in.

    October 5, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  19. BD70

    So who needs an impulsive president who doesn't digest all their facts.

    October 5, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  20. Kari

    Who cares. She's out.

    October 5, 2011 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  21. Steve in Denver

    How soon can we chalk up bachmann as the last flavor of the month and put her next to Pain er Palin in the has-been, I'll say anything for a little bit of attention bin? I always have trouble typing the "L" in palin . . .

    October 5, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  22. Coondog

    Blind Leading the Blind

    October 5, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Casual

    Big deal, what else is new with this can we expect her to have any recall, when she can't recall that her own husband is a gay about denial....she has zero facts straight...and she is a nut job. Hey, I thought crazy was suppose to be out of fashion for Repugs....crazy is about all I ever see them churning out these days....

    October 5, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  24. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    as The Great Gazoo famously said, "Hello Dumb Dumb."

    October 5, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  25. DanW

    She shouldn't just pass along information she hears. She should look it up on the Internet like everyone else to make sure it's true!

    October 5, 2011 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
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