You could get rich collecting a dime for every time a politician says something ignorant. And there should be a special surcharge for Michele Bachmann.
As you probably know already, Bachmann is a notorious fact-free zone. She says the Congressional Budget Office concluded that “ObamaCare will kill 800,000 jobs,” whereas, in reality, the CBO never floated a number. She insists that President Obama “has virtually no one in his Cabinet with private-sector experience,” whereas, in reality, two-thirds of the members have private-sector experience. She says that the Obama team has approved only one off-shore drilling permit, whereas, in reality, there have been dozens. She says that the Founding Fathers, including John Quincy Adams, “worked tirelessly to end slavery,” whereas, in reality, John Quincy Adams was a college kid in Boston when the Constitution – which preserved slavery – was crafted in Philadelphia.But none of those can top the whopper Bachmann uncorked this week, when she falsely smeared a vaccine that, with minimal side effects these past five years, has immunized 35 million young Americans from a cancer-causing virus. It’s one thing to botch the history of the Founding Fathers; in that instance, she’s merely threatening to lower the national IQ. It’s another thing entirely to recklessly slime science and muck around with the serious issue of public health.Worse yet, she did this solely in the pursuit of political gain. Rick Perry has been vacuuming up the right-wingers, and she badly needed to get to his right, lest her candidacy disappear. The HPV vaccine issue looked like the perfect opportunity, given the conservative ire over Perry’s gubernatorial decision to immunize Texas schoolgirls. Bachmann duly hammered him for that during the Republican debate on Monday night – she attacked him for violating the girls’ “liberty” – but, more importantly, she subsequently doubled down by attacking the vaccine in two TV interviews.Bachmann told Fox News that, immediately after the debate, a woman had approached her and shared some horrific news: “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.”Bachmann again invoked the crying woman the next morning, on The Today Show: “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”There is not a shred of scientific evidence – “absolutely no scientific validity,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics – that the HPV vaccine has triggered even a single case of mental retardation.So, I have questiions:Does Bachmann know more than the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine, and the Food and Drug Administration? Does this crying woman really exist? (Politicians have long been notorious for magically conjuring the perfect citizen anecdote, to perfectly illustrate a political talking point.)If the crying woman does in fact exist, did she really tell Bachmann that the child’s diagnosis was mental retardation?If indeed she told Bachmann that the diagnosis was mental retardation, did Bachmann or anyone on her staff try to vet the claim before recycling it publicly?The answer to the last question, of course, is no. And that’s the most despicable aspect of this episode. Someone put something in Bachmann’s ear (assuming that the woman was real), and, presto, it exited Bachmann’s mouth. If the candidate had taken a breath and done even minimal due diligence, she would’ve quickly learned that, after 35 million doses of the vaccine, not a single case of mental retardation has surfaced on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System – a national tracking program sponsored by the FDA and CDC.But it gets worse.While hosting Bachmann on Fox News the other night, Sean Hannity aired one of her “mental retardation” sound bites and said to her: “Is that one of the side effects of this (vaccine)? Because I’ve not heard that.”To which Bachmann replied: “I have no idea…I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician,. All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me.”I have no idea…There it is. On a family public health issue, Bachmann admits she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and thinks it’s fine to recycle stuff that she hasn’t checked out. Fortunately, some responsible voices have come to the fore. Dr. William Schaffner, a health expert at Vanderbilt University, tells ABC News, “We all need to rely on science, and careful and thorough investigation, before we accept any allegation of adverse events.” Consumer Reports simply says: “Don’t listen to political debates for information about your family’s health.”I’d sum up the latest Bachmann whopper this way:Someone who exhibits such a reckless disregard for science does not deserve to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1