Bioethicists Offer $11,000 Reward If Michele Bachmann Can Prove Her Claims About Gardisil

The reaction in the medical community to Michele Bachmann’s claim that she met a woman whose daughter now suffers from mental retardation due to receiving the HPV vaccine has been overwhelmingly negative. Two scientists, though, are telling Bachmann to put up or shut up:

A University of Minnesota bioethicist is offering $1,000 for medical proof that a woman’s daughter suffered mental retardation from the vaccine for human papillomavirus virus, a story that was told by Rep. Michele Bachmann after Monday’s debate.

Bachmann has come under fire from the medical community for suggesting the vaccination for the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, is linked to mental illness.

Steven Miles, a U of M bioethics professor, said that he’ll give $1,000 if the medical records of the woman from Bachmann’s story are released and can be viewed by a medical professional.

His offer was upped by his former boss from the University of Minnesota, Art Caplan, who is now director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics. Caplan said he would match Miles’ challenge and offered $10,000 for proof of the HPV vaccine victim.

“These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm,” Miles said of why he made the offer. “The woman, assuming she exists, put this claim into the public domain and it’s an extremely serious claim and it deserves to be analyzed.”

For her part, though, Bachmann isn’t backing down. On Tuesday, she told Sean Hannity that she “had no idea” if the woman’s story that she related was true, but that she was merely “passing on” what she was told. Yesterday, she again passed on the opportunity to back down from her remarks:

During the debate, I didn’t make any statements that would indicate that I’m a doctor, I’m a scientist or that I’m making any conclusions about the drug one way or another,” the GOP presidential hopeful told reporters here who questioned her about the story she told suggesting that the vaccine had caused mental retardation. Asked whether she would apologize for comments that outraged medical experts say will discourage parents from getting their children immunized, Bachmann said: “Oh, I’m not going to answer that.”

Of course you’re not Congresswoman, you’re just “asking questions.”

Exit question. It’s four days since Bachmann made these comments, why hasn’t this woman shown up in the media? Could it be because she doesn’t exist?

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    On Tuesday, she told Sean Hannity that she “had no idea” if the woman’s story that she related was true, but that she was merely “passing on” what she was told.

    In other words, it was “truthy” enough.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    @JP…And when she was a birther she was just passing that on.
    And when she wanted the entire democratic caucus investigated for anti-american beliefs she was just passing that on.
    In other news I had cabbage for dinner last night…and what I’m passing on this morning is of more value than anything Bachmann will ever pass on.

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Can someone explain to me why we’re still entertaining the idea of this woman ever being president? This is a person who hid in the bushes to spy on a gay pride speech.

  4. Susan Tarvin says:

    And now she’s saying that the woman didn’t claim her child was retarded, now she says that the child just had a negative reaction? Hello? Which one was it? There is no decent Republican candidate, all they care about is trashing the President, and making him fail. They are getting ready to reject tax cuts Obama proposed, just to take office at the next election. Extreme right wing conservatives won’t appeal to the best interests of this Country.

  5. Franklin says:

    @Ben Wolf: Heh, I had almost forgot about that … so are we still officially saying that she’s more sane than Palin?

  6. MarkedMan says:

    Truthy. Because that’s better than the truth.

  7. Fiona says:


    Not more sane. Just not as lazy.

  8. mantis says:

    She’s already lost the Fox News Primary, so I wouldn’t concern myself too much with Bachmann.

  9. -Theocon challenges medical science
    – Medical science tells theocon to back it up with facts not fairy tales
    – Theocon skirts issue

    Next we will hear from the usual suspects that it was a liberal/libertarian/socialist/islamist/anti-white conspiracy to bring the theocon down.

  10. Someone should post the video of South Park’s parody of Glenn Beck with Cartman saying “I’m just asking questions.”