In last night's GOP presidential debate Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann lambasted Texas governor Rick Perry for his executive order, which never went into effect, that sixth grade girls should receive a vaccine to prevent HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer. Bachmann knocked Perry down a notch, arguing that the episode was an example of crony capitalism (Perry's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for the drug company that manufactured the vaccine).

But last night on Fox News, Bachmann seemed to go off the deep end, alleging that the vaccine can cause "mental retardation."

"There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate," Bachmann said. "She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine." Bachmann credulously repeated the claim this morning. But Ed Morrissey points out that there's no evidence that the vaccine causes "mental retardation":

The FDA has received no reports of brain damage as a result of HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix. Among the reports that correlate seriously adverse reactions to either, the FDA lists blood clots, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and 68 deaths during the entire run of the drugs. The FDA found no causal connection to any of these serious adverse events and found plenty of contributing factors to all — and all of the events are exceedingly rare.

The “mental retardation” argument is a rehash of the thoroughly discredited notion that vaccines containing thimerasol caused a rapid increase in diagnosed autism cases. That started with a badly-botched report in Lancet that allowed one researcher to manipulate a ridiculously small sample of twelve cases in order to reach far-sweeping conclusions about thimerasol. That preservative hasn’t been included in vaccines for years, at least not in the US, and the rate of autism diagnoses remain unchanged.

Bachmann is derided by the left as being more than a little loony. The truth is that she had avoided making conspiratoriorial and baseless assertions during the campaign--until last night.

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