Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's story about a woman who claimed that her daughter suffered "mental retardation" after receiving a vaccine against HPV could fetch the woman's family thousands of dollars. But the family can only collect if Bachmann or the unnamed woman can prove the story is true.
Two bioethics professors have offered to pay more than $10,000 for medical records that prove the anecdote Bachmann told after Monday night's Republican presidential debate is true, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
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.'"
Bachmann told the story after she criticized opponent Texas Gov. Rick Perry for using an executive order in 2007 to mandate that all girls entering the sixth grade receive a vaccination against the Human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer. The Texas legislature overturned the mandate and the policy was never enacted.
"There's a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate," Bachmann said after the debate, where she had told Perry on stage that she was "offended" by his decision. "She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine." She repeated the story to several news outlets over the next 24 hours and sent a fundraising letter to supporters about the exchange she had with Perry on the debate stage.
When pressed by Fox News' Sean Hannity on his radio program about the story, Bachmann said she had "no idea" if it were true.
Bachmann's story drew criticism members of the medical community along with several conservatives allies, including radio host Rush Limbaugh, who have refused to defend her. Ed Rollins, who advised Bachmann's campaign through the summer, said she should take it back.
"She made a mistake," Rollins said on MSNBC. "The quicker she admits she made a mistake and moves on, the better she is."