Bachmann’s HPV hearsay

Media professionals need to call out statements that lack evidence.

Editorial board

Last week, Michele Bachmann again made news for making a puzzling claim that no one can verify. This time she claimed that a common Human Papillomavirus vaccine is linked to mental retardation, despite no reports of this from the 35 million patients who received administered doses. Bachmann told âÄúThe Today ShowâÄù that a woman she met told her that her 12-year-old daughter received the HPV vaccination and was later diagnosed with mental retardation.

Minnesotans have long been used to hearing BachmannâÄôs bizarre claims that, more often than not, have no factual basis at all. For many Minnesotans, considering the congresswoman to be a serious presidential candidate is little more than a joke. However, the rest of the country may not be as familiar with BachmannâÄôs antics. This lack of familiarity may be dangerous to those considering voting for her in the 2012 election.

Already in the primaries, candidates like Bachmann have been allowed to make too many bizarre claims without being asked to verify them. Moderators, interviewers and media professionals should practice good journalism by asking and pressing for verification of any statement that seems questionable. They should not let comments slide and follow up later; they should challenge the candidate immediately on air to provide evidence before an untruth becomes conventional wisdom. By not doing so, these professionals are doing a disservice to the American public.