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Bachmann continues to seize on HPV

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appearing on the "TODAY" Show Tuesday, September 13, 2011.

TAMPA, FL -- During an appearance on the "TODAY" Show this morning, GOP candidate Michele Bachmann told NBC's Matt Lauer that a woman approached her following the GOP debate last night to recount a story of an HPV shot gone wrong.

“I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate,” Bachmann said. “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.

“The mother was crying,” Bachmann added. “I didn’t know who she was before the debate.”

The anecdote marks another development in Bachmann’s attack on Texas Gov. Rick Perry over his 2007 order requiring HPV vaccinations for girls entering the 6th grade. Last night, Bachmann suggested Perry’s executive order was driven by political -- and undue financial -- considerations.

“We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order, there was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate,” Bachmann said during the CNN-Tea Party Express debate.  

Merck, the company in question, manufactures the vaccine, which is called Gardasil.

“The governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company,” Bachmann said, after the moderator pressed her to elaborate. “The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor.”

In a lively exchange, Perry countered: “It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raised about $30 million, and if you're saying that I can be bought for 5,000 [dollars], I'm offended.”

Bachmann replied that she was offended “for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice.” Her comment won cheers.
       
This morning on "TODAY," Bachmann added: “There is no second chance for these little girls if there’s any dangerous consequences to their bodies.”

HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, has been shown to cause cervical cancer. But mandating a vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection has proved unpopular among social conservatives.  The program has also become a focal point for criticism from Tea Party conservatives alarmed by expressions of executive power.