Jay Leno must have thought he was the host of "Meet the Press" Friday evening, for the grilling he gave guest Michele Bachmann couldn't possibly have been what she was expecting when she agreed to go on the "Tonight Show."
Rather than the light, humorous banter politicians normally get when on late night comedy programs, the Republican presidential candidate was interrogated for four minutes about the Texas HPV vaccine issue (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JAY LENO, HOST: Well, the debate is heating up. You and Perry went over this HPV vaccine topic. Explain this whole deal.
CONGRESSWOMAN MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MINNESOTA): Well, there was a situation where it was an abuse of executive power, and that's something that the governor admitted, that it was an abuse of executive power. It was an action by the governor to write an executive order to order all twelve-year-old girls to have an injection before they could go into school.
LENO: But, it was never implemented, right? He signed it, but it was never implemented.
BACHMANN: Right. Right. Right.
LENO: Okay, so…
BACHMANN: But it was -- it was highly controversial, and the legislature in Texas was so angry that they were going -- they passed a law to overturn it because they didn't want to have the children go through that.
LENO: Okay. I mean, is that bad? I mean, it's a vaccine to…
BACHMANN: Well, I think so.
LENO: …to prevent, what is it, cervical cancer? What am I missing?
BACHMANN: Well, it, it's HPV, and the concern is that there's, you know, potentially side effects that can come with something like that. But, it gives a false sense of assurance to a young woman when she has that if she's sexually active that she doesn't have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases, and that's not necessarily true.
LENO: Well, I don't know if it gives assurance. It's just, it can prevent cervical cancer, correct?
BACHMANN: But, it's the -- it's -- again, it's something that potentially could have dangerous side effects. But it's also the fact of crony capitalism. People were worried that potentially that…
LENO: But, parents can opt out of it, right?
BACHMANN: You can opt out, but…
LENO: The parents can say, "I don't want my daughter to have it” and still go to school.
BACHMANN: The way that these work is the fact that when you have to opt out, you have to be very proactive. And people just assume that the government does what's best for you. And my experience has been that's not always necessarily the case.
LENO: Yeah, okay, alright.
Now, you made some comments on the "Today" show, you said a woman came up to you, and her daughter took the vaccine, and suffered from, had mental issues, mental retardation problems. Do you regret not getting this woman's name and address so, this could, I mean…
BACHMANN: Well, this is -- this is -- when we had the debate in Tampa, this last week -- after the debate I went down to the front of the stage, just like your set here, and there were a lot of people there, and I was shaking hands and thanking them for being there. And one of the women was crying, that was in the audience. And she said, "Thank you for bringing this issue up,” and then, she was distraught, and she told me about what happened to her daughter, and that's what I know. So, I don't know who the person was.
LENO: When people challenge you on some of this -- because, just reading about this, something like 30 million people have had this, and there haven't been any cases of this, or at least, recorded cases, and this woman has not come forward. I mean, how do you deal with that, when people call you on that and go, “Hey,” what do you say?
BACHMANN: Well, I wasn't speaking as a doctor. I wasn't speaking as a scientist. I was just relating what this woman said. And she came up, and she said -- I wasn't soliciting that information. She gave it to me, but the bigger issue in all of this was the abuse of executive privilege. And then also, just the connection of crony capitalism of if you have a political donor that is giving to you, and then action is taken by a a government official that could potentially benefit that donor, that's really -- that's the Solyndra issue right now. That's what people are worried about with political donors getting a government favor, and that's really the bigger issue.
LENO: Does this cover all vaccines or just this vaccine?
BACHMANN: Just this vaccine.
LENO: Okay, so other vaccines you would be okay with? Smallpox, things like that?
BACHMANN: Well, again, that wasn't even the issue, the vaccination. It was really the issue of abusing executive privilege and the idea of benefiting a a political donor. That's really the big issue.
LENO: But, if he never implemented it, was it still abusing it? He signed it, but he didn't implement it.
BACHMANN: Well, but what it shows, though, is that the legislature was saying this is not a good idea, and the governor had to back off. And again, he admitted he made a mistake.
LENO: Alright, look. More with Michele when we come back.
Not the light, friendly chitchat one normally sees when a political figure goes on such a program. Leno didn't even seem his typical friendly, jovial self either.
Makes you wonder what was going through his mind Friday evening.