Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the mother of three daughters -- though she seemed to momentarily forget how many children she had -- went after Rick Perry during Monday night's GOP debate for his 2007 executive order mandating that young girls in Texas be vaccinated against HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease and one that can lead to cervical cancer.
"To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. That's a violation of a liberty interest," she said.
She then argued that Perry had a conflict-of-interest because one of his top staffers was a lobbyist for Merck, the drug company that manufactured the vaccine.
"I just wanted to add that 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. We can't deny that," Bachmann said, referring to Merck.
"What I'm saying is that it's wrong for a drug company -- because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?"
Perry clarified that he received a $5,000 donation from Merck. "I raised about $30 million," he said. "And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended."
"Well, I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice," replied Bachmann. "That's what I'm offended for."
The Bachmann campaign quickly sent out a press release on Perry's HPV record:
Texas Governor Rick Perry has admitted he was mistaken to issue his 2007 executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine against a sexually-transmitted disease for 11-year-old girls. However, it remains unclear how much his ties to Merck, Gardasil's maker, influenced this decision. Key advisors to Perry worked for Merck as lobbyists before and after he issued this executive order and Merck donated $6,000 to Perry in 2007. The drug maker stood to make tens of millions off Perry's order until the legislature overturned it. ....
Lobbyist Mike Toomey served as Perry's chief of staff for two years, then went on to lobby for gambling interests and the manufacturer of the HPV vaccine. ...
Internal Perry office emails show frequent contact and coordination with Merck lobbyists, such as Mike Toomey and Lara Keel, in the weeks leading up to Perry's decision on the executive order.
Perry's campaign also issued a statement, saying, "Governor Perry has always been a strong believer in protecting parental rights, which is why this executive order allowed parents to make the final decision about whether or not their daughter was vaccinated. ... Gov. Perry stands firmly on the side of protecting life, and he viewed the issue in that context since HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women. However, he has said that, in hindsight, his order was a mistake because citizens should have had the opportunity to express their opinions beforehand on such a sensitive issue."