Recently, Michele Bachmann has been pounding on Rick Perry for his HPV vaccine mandate. She’s falsely accused him of being in the tank for Merck (from which he has received only $28,500 bucks during his entire gubernatorial tenure, a tiny share of all the donations he has received as governor) and has falsely claimed that it causes mental retardation (which is a lie so egregious that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement debunking it). She has wrongly equated the HPV vaccine mandate with Obama’s socialized medicine scheme. She conveniently omitted the fact that all states require vaccines of all sorts to be administered to children as young as 11. She conveniently omitted the fact that the CDC, the FDA, and the AAP all recommend that all girls aged 11-12 be vaccinated against HPV, before they become sexually active (the CDC actually recommends that all girls and women aged 9-26 be vaccinated against HPV), and that Texas is suffering from an epidemic of HPV and an epidemic of teen pregnancies.
Bachmann also conveniently omitted the fact that a woman dying from cervical cancer urged Perry to issue this mandate shortly before her death, as did Perry’s own wife, Anita Perry, a registered nurse.
But here’s a fact that will prove that not only is Bachmann a liar, she’s also a hypocrite.
Bachmann is in the tank for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.
The brunt of Bachmann’s crony capitalism charge is that Governor Perry mandated the use of a drug by a pharmaceutical company—Merck—that had also donated to his campaign to the tune of $28,500.
Meanwhile, Bachman has taken somewhere north of $140,000 from pharmaceutical companies.
Those donors include Abbott Labs, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Eli Lilly and Bayer. Yet, not a dollar of all that pharma money, from such a wide range of the world’s largest drugmakers, came from Merck. Might Bachmann be going after Merck on behalf of that company’s competitors who also happen to be Bachmann donors?
But really, if Bachmann is carrying water, it’s likely not for her pharmaceutical patrons, but her insurance ones. Over the years, Bachmann has taken in huge donations from the insurance industry, including big names such as Allstate, American Family, Aetna and AFLAC, as well as umbrella organizations like the National Association of Health Underwriters and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. There are also several professional insurance association and agent PACs. In the 2009-10 cycle, “insurance” was the largest single industry donor to the Congresswoman. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, Bachmann ranked eighth in total fundraising receipts from insurers.
Now, if Bachmann likes a good follow-the-money insinuation, she might like the hypothetical that she is only going after Perry’s Gardasil decision because, as a covered treatment, such an order would cost insurers for every injection (a full vaccination requires three shots, and they cost about $120 each). Perry worked to secure about $40 million from the state to match about that same amount from the feds to cover the uninsured and those on state health assistance.
(A note on the subject of conflicts of interest: Quaint by comparison is that the Our Country Deserves Better PAC (better known as the Tea Party Express), the co-sponsors of the debate, donated to only one candidate on stage Monday night: Michele Bachmann. That this was not disclosed is, in this day and age, a minor point, but one that should be flung in with the rest of CNN’s reputation as its spirals around the toilet bowl.)
After the debate, Bachmann told Anderson Cooper that immediately after the event she had been approached by a mother. Bachmann looked right into the camera and said, “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”
If Bachmann did not just make that whole story up, then she repeated a lie that she didn’t care to elaborate upon. In the hours after her statement, health professionals and citizens alike voiced outrage at her unfounded claim. Two separate Minnesota heath researchers offered a combined $11,000 bounty on any proof of the connection.
But what about the opposition to the mandate voiced by the Texas Medical Association that so many keep mentioning? That was for tax purposes, not treatment ones, as doctors worried they would be forced to eat the costs of administration as a “pass-through” treatment where they could bill for the injection itself, but not the time spent giving it.
What would really take Bachmann’s claim to the next level would be a full-on slander lawsuit from Merck. Bachmann’s irresponsible, if not manufactured, claim that HPV vaccination creates “mental retardation” presents a genuine threat to Merck’s bottom line—and at least a few of the jobs of their 94,000 employees, their contribution to being an “engine of the economy.”
Merck’s statement on the issue, with the clinical title “Merck Statement on GARDASIL®,” was so sanitary it did not even mention Bachmann’s name. In the battle for news worthiness, Merck’s effort has all the pop of the brochure that your pharmacist staples to prescription bags at pick-up.
Asked for comment on the possibility of such an action, a spokesman for Merck referred me to the statement, saying only that right now Merck’s “priority is to make sure there is accurate information about Gardasil available to the public.”
Of course, the real losers here are women who will suffer horribly and die from cervical cancer.
A lesser loser, but a loser nonetheless, is Anita Perry, the wife Rick Perry threw under the bus during the debate when he spun his HPV vaccination mandate as “a mistake.” (Perry has called the mandate a mistake before, but never on quite such a national stage.)
Anita Perry has a BA and an MS in nursing. In addition to her personal medical experience, her father was a doctor. She has been a champion of women’s health. By accounts, she is the true driver behind the Gardasil mandate. For years as Texas’ First Lady, Perry has made cancer a particular focus, attending event after event for cancer research, awareness and fundraising.
During the passage of the vaccine bill, Anita Perry headed up a sexual assault organization, which may have pushed her further toward an understanding of the value of HPV immunity.
Emails from a FOIA request by Politico show that Rick Perry was hardly a factor in the vaccine bill and instead forwarded information to Anita, who responded by writing, “[Dallas Republican] Tammy Cotten Hartnett told me at lunch today that she would help you with some conservative groups.”
Putting a human face on Perry’s order was 31-year-old teacher Heather Burcham who, while dying of cervical cancer, lobbied heavily for the mandate and became a health advocacy partner of Perry’s in the run-up to 2007. Burcham said before her death, “I don’t want my life to have no purpose whatsoever, and if I can help spread the word about cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, then I haven’t lived in vain.”
The limp governor, who was tough enough to shoot a coyote but did not have the cojones to veto the bill repealing his HPV order, is now groveling in the face of outrage from mouth-breathing moralists. It’s a damn shame, because if Perry was genuinely the bold leader he’s been sold as, he would have just reissued his statements on the matter from 2007:
“I have never seen so much misinformation spread about a vital public health issue: whether it is the effectiveness of the vaccine, the impact of the order on parents’ decision-making authority, or the impact this will have on the behavior of young women.
But the fact remains: my order always has been and always will be about protecting women’s health…. Those legislators who claim this is about their right to determine public policy have succeeded in overturning my order. But if they care about succeeding in stopping the spread of the second most deadly cancer among women, and not just asserting their power, then they will turn around and pass legislation to make access to the HPV vaccine as widely available as possible.
Instead, they have sent me a bill that will ensure three-quarters of our young women will be susceptible to a virus that not only kills hundreds each year, but causes great discomfort and harm to thousands more. Instead of vaccinating close to 95 percent of our young women, and virtually eliminating the spread of the most common STD in America, they have relegated the lives of our young women to social Darwinism, where only those who can afford it or those who know about the virtues of it will get access to the HPV vaccine. (…)”
No, Rick Perry did not make a mistake by issuing his EO.
Rick Perry made a mistake by allowing the Texan State Legislature to overturn his EO and by allowing Bachmann to lie about Gardasil and his EO.
This is the REAL Michele Bachmann: a crony capitalist, a liar, and a hypocrite simoultaneously.