The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Michelle Bachmann Spews Anti-Vaccine Nonsense on the Presidential Campaign Trail

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 14, 2011

Up until this point, I haven’t made any public comments on the 2012 United States presidential race, but I can no longer hold my tongue (or, in this case, fingers).  I have been disturbed about a number of what I would call anti-scientific comments from many of the Republican candidates on the issues of evolutionary and climate science, which serve to only perpetuate an ignorance of and disdain for science in this country.  These days it seems like standard-operating-procedure for Republican candidates to deny evolution and global warming (with notable exceptions such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman) in an effort to win over more conservative voters,  but what happened in the most recent Republican debate this past Monday night is absolutely deplorable.  That’s because now some of these candidates are openly expressing denial of vaccines!

Case in point, at Monday night’s GOP debate there was an exchange between candidates Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann on the issue of Perry’s executive order (he’s the governor of Texas) to add the HPV vaccine to the vaccine schedule for 11-12 year-old girls as a way of protecting them from cervical cancer later in life.  Almost immediately, Bachmann attacked Perry using standard anti-vaccination talking points with Rick Santorum throwing in some additional anti-vaccine comments for good measure.  Here’s the exchange…

Video courtesy of Real Clear Politics

It gets worse.  According to this report, Michelle Bachmann doubled down on her dangerous stupidity in a post-debate interview with Fox News and the next day on the Today Show with these comments:

“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate,” Bachmann said. “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.” [emphasis added]

Holy… shit.  Now we have a potentially serious presidential candidate who is publicly stating that vaccines could cause mental retardation (as if it wasn’t bad enough with Jenny McCarthy claiming vaccines cause autism, now mental retardation is on the table, too!)  This is going to scare the hell out of a lot of parents all over the country, and vaccination rates will decline as a result.

Personally, I’m no fan of Rick Perry, but he at least had the presence of mind to see the wisdom of adding the HPV vaccine to the vaccination schedule, and he’s not denying the benefit of vaccines.  Yet here we have, in a response motivated by what I feel to be purely cynical political reasons, other candidates feeding into the dangerous and deadly anti-vaccination meme that vaccines make kids sick (as opposed to the other way around).  Michelle Bachmann has, in one bold stroke, given a huge national platform to the anti-vaccination movement which could very easily result in a lot of unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

What’s worse, because of her influence among the Tea Party wing of the Republican party, Bachmann’s comments will cause more GOP candidates to adopt positions on these issues cloaked in anti-vaccine language (just note in the video above how quickly Rick Santorum jumped on her coat-tails!)

Folks, this is dangerous business.  Michelle Bachmann may think she’s just fishing for votes, but what she’s actually doing is much more serious than that: the end result of her words and actions will be that people who listen to her will either die themselves or their loved ones will die.

And all of this is in the name of jumping on the “smaller government” anti-science bandwagon which is all the rage these days in some conservative circles.  Fortunately, not all Republicans and conservatives are this anti-scientific and stupid in their thinking, and if you count yourselves among these scientifically-literate conservatives, then you need to speak up.  Take some time to contact the Bachmann campaign (and perhaps the Santorum campaign as well) to let them know just how irresponsible and dangerous these statements are from the debate and subsequent interviews.  At the same time, take a few moments to contact Rick Perry’s campaign and urge him to stay strong in his pro-vaccine stance – supporting candidates when they take a positive position on a science issue is just as important as playing Whack-A-Mole with the idiots.

Do what you can to speak up within your particular political circles against this lunacy, because – at the end of the day – diseases such as influenza, whooping cough, measles, and cervical cancer don’t give a damn who you vote for, but they could kill you or someone you love if you listen to cynical, politically-conniving morons like Michelle Bachmann.

For more information on this issue, I highly recommend the following skeptical perspectives:

1. My skeptical colleague, Jamie Bernstein, has an excellent guest post over at Skepchick:

Cervical Cancer is my Cup of Tea: guest post by Jamie Bernstein

2. And the one-and-only Rebecca Watson gives her thoughts in a deliciously sarcastic Youtube video:

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5 Responses to “Michelle Bachmann Spews Anti-Vaccine Nonsense on the Presidential Campaign Trail”

  1. DataJack (@Data_Jack) said

    Thank you for this, Matt, you were eloquent and passionate, as always. We need all of our voices united on this. Each of us can, and must, contact our representatives to let them know how important this is.

  2. daveprime said

    While there are, admittedly, some young girls who are adversly affected (89 reported deaths over the past 3 years and an unkown, but significant, number of cases of GBS, etc.) in the end the positives outweigh the negatives. After all, while 89 girls MAY have died due to the vaccine, an unkown number of THOUSANDS have been saved from cervical (an other) cancers! There is a small personal risk in EVERY vaccine choice, but as a society vaccination just makes numerical sense! Good article!

  3. [...] Michelle Bachmann Spews Anti-Vaccine Nonsense on the Presidential Campaign Trail [...]

  4. [...] maddening contempt for science continues to spill into ever more policy matters. In particular, unverified anecdotes appear to be the basis of public health [...]

  5. how do you get hpv…

    [...]Michelle Bachmann Spews Anti-Vaccine Nonsense on the Presidential Campaign Trail « The Skeptical Teacher[...]…

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