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. Patrick Lewis

    Somehow impulsive plus not fully understanding does not strike me as a presidential trait.

    October 5, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  2. bill

    Oh, so she only tells half truths? Last I heard, a half truth is a whole lie. I guess her facts are based on the statements of the last person who spoke to her.

    October 5, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Bubba Schmo

    Just what we want .... an impulsive president who jumps to conclusions and doesn't check her facts. Hello world war three.

    October 5, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. Rask Olnik

    Cripes CNN. I don't like Bachmann either, but all she did was mis-speak. I'm sure she knows the difference between a Nation and a State. This is ridiculous.

    October 5, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  5. Laverne

    I guess this woman plans to run the country based on "hear say" stuff. She needs to do her homework and get the facts right before she speaks as it is obvious that so many Americans don't do their own homework and hang on to the every word of certain politicians as if they are God. It is sad, but true and it is DANGEROUS! As a woman, I could never vote for Bachman and Palin, they are definitely no Hillary Clinton!

    October 5, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  6. Bleeding Liberal

    Perhaps Bachmann should do her own research and not take everything she hears for fact. But now it's too late – she's once again shown that she lacks the mental requirements needed to hold the country's highest office.

    October 5, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  7. Christian

    "provocative, controversial figure"? Michelle Bachmann is an IDIOT! Maybe she can run for president of North Dakota since she thinks it's a country. What a joke. But hey, I am hoping she gets nominated. I'd love to see her spar with Obama. It would almost be unfair.

    October 5, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  8. NoTags

    This is just the kind of statement everyone expects each day from Bachmann. Her race for the presidency is over and she just won't admit it.

    October 5, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Don

    It's a handy political technique to use third party references when trying to make a point. Whether it is a success story as a result of a jobs program or a sad one involving someone who has suffered as a result of governmental neglect. However, it always involves verification of the facts. That is something Bachmann CANNOT do without putting her foot in it. Like the drunk driver who has to have that one last drink, she has to make that one last statement without verifying the facts. Both usually end up in disasters.

    October 5, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  10. leadcollector

    She just makes it up as she goes. If she thinks it's to her advantage.

    October 5, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. runner305

    Maybe the GOP should be called the Gaffe Ongoing Party??

    October 5, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  12. Vee

    If she wasnt so eager to criticize Obama and her GOP competitors, Bachmann might be able to get her facts straight. Her bubble-head comments are only affirming the idea that she is not educated about important issues.

    October 5, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  13. Nathan

    I dont think that this represents a huge political gaffe or mistake, HPV was much bigger. But the biggest gaffe of all would be making her the GOP candidate who goes against Obama.

    October 5, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |

    Stick a fork in her: her campaign is over! See ya, crazy eyes Michelle.

    October 5, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  15. MTATL67

    "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. She cannot even get answers correct when her town halls are so scripted they sound like a extremely bad NBC sitcom.

    October 5, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  16. Lolo

    Wht else is new? Like she said their only goal is to Make President Obama a one term president, Nothing else. She does not care whether it is the truth or not and the same for her followers.

    October 5, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  17. janedoe

    why do they keep bringing up something Obama did in 2008 to make Bachman seem like she's not stupid and everybody makes mistakes. This is 2010 CNN. Cut it out.

    October 5, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  18. Pat

    “You Can’t Believe Most of the Quotes You Read On the Internet” – Abraham Lincoln

    October 5, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  19. Alison

    Well... at least she "reads an awful lot of information" even if she's too stupid to process it correctly. Unlike the last bimbo running for office.

    October 5, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  20. carly

    Let's face it Bachmann is just another clown in a long line of GOP clowns who have no clue about much but try to mislead Americans 24/7.

    October 5, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  21. ed

    How is it "critics" who "claim" she doesn't always get her facts straight. Its not a claim. She doesn't. Often. Its just people who acknowledge facts who say factually that she doesn't get her facts straight.. Why does this article act like its just something "some people claim"?

    October 5, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. allens

    o.k. now i have gone from being sickened by her stupidity, to feeling sorry for her. we should not pick on the impaired. please do not waste news time on her, i am afraid she has passed

    October 5, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. demmie

    that's it? Sayinog ONLY state to run a surplus instead of saying "only one of four" states running a surplus? I guess I was expecting something a little more glaring given teh headline and hard-hitting coverage :/

    October 5, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  24. Robert - Atlanta

    All the republican candidates are liars and hypocrites. Not surprisingly Michele Bachman has a real problem with facts. Bachman’s popularity is hard to explain – republicans just like someone stupider and crazier than they are! The rest of the republican candidates are has-beens, never-was, know nothings bent on raising money by fleecing the flock!

    October 5, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  25. Phil in Oregon

    You can't be in that office and make glaring mistakes like that. Millions of people worldwide live or die on his/her words. Got the number of STATES wrong?? 3rd graders do better!

    October 5, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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