Michele Bachmann Gaffes: Fact-Checking Her Famous Flubs
Whether she’s discussing the state where the American Revolution began or the cost of a doctor visit, Bachmann is famous for flubbing the facts. The Daily Beast fact-checks six of her most outrageous statements.
1. Government Makes Doctor Visits More Expensive
THE CLAIM: Speaking at an event in Iowa on Oct. 29, Bachmann recalled that, when she was a kid, her parents used to pay just $5 to visit the doctor—and even that fee was sometimes waived for people who couldn’t afford it. The GOP candidate argued that government intervention has inflated the cost of health care, and made such generosity on the part of doctors impossible.
THE FACTS: The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble points out that while Bachmann’s history is superficially correct, she left out a key factor that undercuts her claim: in 1961, when Bachmann was 5 years old, $5 was equivalent to $37.94 today. And according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average copay for a doctor visit now is $22.82—40 percent less, when adjusted for inflation, than Bachmann’s childhood appointments.
2. American Revolution Began in New Hampshire
THE CLAIM: Bachmann has a knack for shifting her historical geography to suit the location of her stump speech. Speaking in Manchester, N.H., in March, Bachmann said, “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.” Then at a fundraiser the same night, she said, “It’s your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world, you are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard.”
THE FACTS: The cities of Lexington and Concord are actually located over 50 miles away from where Bachmann was speaking—in Massachusetts.
3. HPV Vaccine Causes Mental Retardation
THE CLAIM: Attacking rival Rick Perry after a September GOP debate for mandating that Texas girls be vaccinated against HPV, Bachmann related one of her famous “a mom came up to me crying” anecdotes. “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine,” Bachmann said. “She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”
THE FACTS: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are no documented cases of HPV vaccines causing retardation. The academy recommends the vaccine be given to all preteen girls, noting that in 35 million vaccinations, only a few thousand have led to complications, and 92 percent of those cases were nonserious reactions.
4. Founding Fathers Worked to End Slavery
THE CLAIM: At an anti-tax event in Iowa in January, Bachmann called slavery a “stain on our history.” She added: “But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. … Men like John Quincy Adams would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”
THE FACTS: John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, and he did indeed campaign against slavery. The problem is, he’s not a “founding father”: he wasn’t yet 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. A minority of the men who signed America’s founding documents, including Benjamin Franklin, did eventually oppose slavery, but Bachmann’s statement distorts history. As The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler points out, the founders made a number of deals that allowed slavery to continue for nearly a century after the American Revolution.
5. Swine Flu Happens Under Democrats
THE CLAIM: In an interview with the conservative website Pajamas Media, Bachmann said: "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
THE FACTS: Bachmann got the right decade, but she failed on the president and the party, reports Politifact. The swine flu panic began in 1976, when military recruits at New Jersey’s Fort Dix came down with symptoms and one died. The president was Gerald Ford, a Republican—who mandated that everyone in the country be vaccinated against the illness, resulting in a political debacle that derailed his reelection campaign.
6. John Wayne Was Born in Waterloo, Iowa
THE CLAIM: The day before she officially launched her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, where she was born, Bachmann told Fox News about the all-American actor whose spirit and hometown she supposedly shared. “What I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."
THE FACTS: John Wayne’s parents briefly lived in Waterloo, but Wayne himself was born in Winterset, Iowa, about a three-hour drive away. Unfortunately for Bachmann, another John Wayne grew up in Waterloo: John Wayne Gacy, Jr., an infamous serial killer who was convicted of murdering 33 adolescent boys and burying them under his house. Gacy and his wife moved from Illinois and settled in Waterloo. Gacy was executed in 1994.