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. THunter99

    Why let facts get in the way when you're trying to make a point, right?

    October 5, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. easydoesit

    Wow the gotcha media sits like wolves in waiting to pounce on every slight misstep. Who cares really that there were three other states involved so the meat of her point was correct. Grow up national media!!

    October 5, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  3. Sequoia

    Gos she's dumb. It's frankly astonishing that even a single person (though very very few) would vote for this idiot to be PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Yikes.

    October 5, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  4. McCain-in-4

    Sounds to me like there are four overtaxes states in this Union.

    October 5, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. Tired of the nonsense

    Hmmm.... Palin doesn't know what a continent is, Bachman doesn't know what a nation is, Bush never knew what a Constitution was - I'm seeing an ignorant trend here.

    October 5, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. LieKiller

    She tells white lies all the time, and openly. I have totally discounted her now. Americans should not listen to this kind of politician any more

    October 5, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. JasonP

    Wow. That's a lot of words that an be summed up easily: Bachmann is a stupid gossip.

    October 5, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  8. sqeptiq

    Those who can't tell the difference between a slip of the tongue and a totally incorrect fact on which an argument is based are worse than the people they criticize.

    October 5, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. Pappy

    So basically she's not ignorant, just stupid.

    October 5, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  10. Crystal Plummer

    What a moron. How can anyone honestly believe this woman should be POTUS?

    October 5, 2011 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. JDT

    She's dumb...

    October 5, 2011 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. Peggy Munro

    O.K. we get it. She is not qualified for government.

    October 5, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  13. walter

    She has foot in mouth disease

    October 5, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  14. TIGER2

    The woman who would be President? NOT! As much as I dislike Hillary as a presidential candidate, I believe that she represented the best hope for any woman aspiring to the job. The Repubs need to go back to the drawing board, because their slate of woman nominees don't have a snowballs chance in Mississppi to make it!

    October 5, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. Indy

    "I was merely passing on...what I had heard," she said.

    Being a gossip queen is in no way Presidential. Bachmann has become the latest idiot in a long line of Republican candidates and it is time for Michele to apoligize to all Americans fror running this scam of being a viable candidate and go to MN and work for her paycheck.

    October 5, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  16. dude in desert

    Yeah, can hardly wait for her to be President and take us to war over mistaken facts....hey wait, isn't that what "W" did in Iraq ??

    October 5, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  17. Tricia

    This is not the first time I've read something similar to "Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart responded to CNN's questions about the statement, saying, "The point Michele was making is that ..." Maybe the campaign spokeswoman would make a better candidate. It seems she at least verifies before speaking.

    October 5, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  18. Darko

    Gaffe? Really?? Not a Bachmann fan, but this is hardly a gaffe. "57 states" is a Gaffe.

    By the way, has the Obama campaign pulled the ad that says the GOP is blocking his 'jobs' bill? It's a hard fact that McConnel motioned to bring it to a vote and the Dem leader Harry Reid blocked it. The bill is sooooo bad, Obama can't even get the dems to vote for it.
    More proof that it was never designed to pass Congress, but merely to use as a campaign tool against the GOP...which backfired as usual.

    October 5, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  19. Terry

    I can't wait for the day until I don't have to see or hear anything about this idiotic woman!

    October 5, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  20. Whywhy

    Can't tell the difference between a nation and a state. And she is running for the WH... why?

    October 5, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  21. Just Saying...

    Michelle Bachmann saying something stupid and/or factually inaccurate is not news.

    Now, if she said something intelligent or based on facts rather than her own fevered immagination, THAT would be news!!!

    October 5, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  22. parnell in canada

    Hmmm....misses 10 to 20% of what she reads and is impulsive. Yup, that's what we in the rest of the world are hoping Americans are looking for in their next president. How did this person convince enough people to work with her to seek a nomination? I mean, c'mon, when are you Americans going to wake up and stop giving these whack jobs a forum?!

    October 5, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    How do you expect to be POTUS when you say and do things based upon heresay? Isn't that why we went to war in Iraq? I think the current official Bush administration reasoning says that they were acting upon information that they were told, but not independently confirmed. Dummies. How about independently denied? There were UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq for a decade who had found nothing. In fact, they almost dropped bombs on their heads as their exit flight took for Baghdad's airport.

    I can see Rep. Bachmann following the same sort of decision making process. Instead of making unbiased observations, you make a hypothesis, and then look for evidence to confirm your hypothesis.

    October 5, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  24. Ed

    keep her away from the red button

    October 5, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  25. LHays

    "'I was merely passing on...what I had heard,' she said." Sounds like the neighborhood gossip.

    October 5, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
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