Steven Miles, a University of Minnesota bioethicist, got the ball rolling by saying that he would pay $1,000 if medical records prove a girl suffered “mental retardation” after receiving a vaccine against HPV, as Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed during Monday's debate, saying she heard it straight from the girl's mother. Then Miles’ former boss, Art Caplan, who is director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, upped the ante, saying he would pay $10,000 to a charity of Bachmann’s choice for proof, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm,” Miles said. “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.”
When Bachmann harshly criticized Rick Perry at Monday’s debate over his executive order mandating the vaccination, many pundits described it as a point-scoring slam. Now it seems as though that may not be the case, as the claims not only led to widespread criticism from the medical community but even conservative commentators are rushing to distance themselves from the lawmaker. Rush Limbaugh said Bachmann may have “jumped the shark” with her comment; Mike Huckabee said “she went a little too far.”
Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who was Bachmann’s campaign manager until earlier this month, characterized the comments as a mistake, reports the Hill. Rollins said it made sense to attack Perry on the executive order, but “she made a mistake” when she decided to talk about the side effects. “The quicker she admits she made a mistake, the better,” Rollins said. Earlier, Bachmann tried to swat away any controversy, telling Sean Hannity: “I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am not a physician. All I was doing was reporting what this woman was reporting.”
Bachmann’s statement now seems to be a “misstep that a candidate with Bachmann’s sometimes-erratic record on the trail could seemingly ill afford to make,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ James Oliphant. Earlier she had made a much-mocked statement suggesting a hurricane and an earthquake were ways God was using to get Washington's attention about spending too much money, for example.