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. Dave

    Is four out of fifty that much different than one out of fifty? Yes, I realize it is 2% vs 8% (a 300% difference between them) or a 4x one vs the other; however, on a relative basis this is not a big mistake.

    October 5, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  2. DrJStrangepork

    Yes... Impulsive and willing to overlook details is exactly what we need in the Commander in Chief.
    She is very entertaining, but she needs to stop wasting people's time and money.

    October 5, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. AntiFringe

    Hey Bachmann............You are irrelevant. You heard it here. Now pass it on.

    October 5, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  4. rockysfan

    Go away dearie, you clearly can't handle the position, since you clearly can't hear or even do basic research before you shoot your mouth off. Now, that may make for good sound bites on the 6 PM news but as a president? Please, just go away. Maybe you and Palin should team up. LMFAO!!!

    October 5, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  5. Jersey Dog

    I heard from a doctor that Bachmann was just recently let out of the Minnesota Institution for the Insane. It has to be true because I heard it from someone.....

    October 5, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  6. Ken M

    So Bachmann makes this gaffa and it's news. VP Biden claims to not know who Van Jones is and crickets churping. Really?

    October 5, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  7. w l jones

    They have about as many people in one Texas football stadium on a Sunday after noon than North Dakatoa it should have a surplus from it natural resoure. Bless

    October 5, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  8. BamaWhig

    The point they aren't making yet is that she's a rumormill. She's one of those gossipy people you don't tell important things to. A valley girl with millionaire backers. Not that I'm a huge Ron Paul fan, but if you gave the ink you dedicate to Bachmann to him instead, we'd have a more interesting race.

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

    To be fair, it isn’t ill will or conscious delivery of misinformation on Bachmann’s part. She can very easily defend her stance on statements she has made by simply saying “I took the HPV vaccine and look how retarded it has me”.

    October 5, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  10. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Wow! And is it any wonder that her senior campaign staff keep quitting? She cannot get facts right. She cannot verify information. And she cannot even keep on her own message. I think this "Tea Party Darling" is about to go down in flames like the Hindenberg.

    October 5, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  11. rs

    Bachmann is the new face of the GOP/TP. That is: not interested in anything that can be vaguely interpreted as fact; filled with an ardent hate of the Presdent, and; operating with a high degree of anti-intellectual, fundamentalsit silliness looking to establish a theocracy.
    In short, the GOP/TP is a fraud, iit does not care about the majority of the population, caring in fact about only the top 2%. It ruthlessly lies, and uses deception to pursue its ruthless ant-American agenda. It is the single biggest threat against America. It is time they be treated as such.

    October 5, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  12. Independent Voter

    The fact the GOP are still talking about Bachman & Perry; should scare any life long GOP Voter. These candidates are so far to the right that they will fight each other to prove it and then come nomination time will spend four months telling Independent Voters like me that they really are not that far Right at all. Sorry, I am not buying it and will probably vote for Obama this time. As many people have said, I don't agree with everything he has done or said but at least he is pushing this country in the right direction. It seems to me the GOP will stop at nothing to make sure Obama is a one term president and they don't care if they hurt this great country in the process. If the GOP want my vote, they better start from scratch and get better candidates that actually want to move this country in the right direction instead of drumming up the Tea Party faithful. As of right now...OBAMA 2012.

    October 5, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. CornucopiaOfKnowledge

    Hadn't heard from Michelle for a while. Glad to hear she's still struggling in her attempt to achieve mediocrity.

    October 5, 2011 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. Error

    President Bachmann's energy czar will be a conch shell she found on a beach. "I hear the ocean, so let's proceed with offshore drilling. I am a good president. Tee Hee."

    October 5, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  15. chutchin


    October 5, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. RedMan

    It doesn't matter what she gaffes she makes, how many lies she tells or how stoopid she really is. What matters to the right, is she parrots their talking points.

    October 5, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  17. BE in TN

    michelle will soon be history; the sooner the better!!!!! Like palin, the mouth is independent of the brain!!!

    October 5, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  18. Jim

    Telephone call from Michelle Bachman to Joseph Lieberman

    Michelle Bachman: This is Michelle Bachman, I'd like to talk to Senatory Lieberman.

    Response: It's Rosh Hashana, he's not in.

    Michelle Bachman: His Rosh, can I leave a message?

    October 5, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  19. Blackman in America

    HOW about this thing is a compulisve LIER and truly cannot help herself. Sad to think that people anyone would actually vote for has MN delt with this crazy chick?

    October 5, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  20. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    What kind of intelligent voter in her district in Minnesota would keep reelecting this moron back to congress? She is a hypocrite, compulsive liar, and openly states that she loves Iowa better than the state of Minnesota, that she refuses to represent!

    October 5, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  21. michael

    she is irrelevant so who cares. just another bible thumiping loud mouth

    October 5, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  22. bigfruitbasket

    More stupidity on parade. Nothing new here, really.

    October 5, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  23. Bob Ritson

    With all the Gaffs that Obama comes up with, do we see the Huffington Post put out a hit piece on him??? Leave the hit pieces alone on Michelle, seems like the slight errors she makes pale in comparison to our beloved Great Leader Barak gaffs

    October 5, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  24. Who?

    Is she still in the race? I thought she went home in shame already. Bachmann, Perry, Cain... all crashed and burned. NEXT!

    October 5, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  25. Mike S.

    Bachmann will make a great news anchor for Faux News. She's got the formula down to a science. "I heard..." and "It has been said that..." followed by whatever right wing whack job statement you'd like to cram down idiot's throats, and then viola! It's a fact!

    October 5, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
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