$11,000 bounty for source of Bachmann's HPV story

Steven Miles, Art Caplan: Skeptical experts.

Steven Miles, Art Caplan: Skeptical experts.

Michele Bachmann made famous the story of an unknown woman who approached Bachmann after the Tea Party debate and said her daughter was made mentally retarded by the HPV vaccine. Now, that same story might make someone rich.

Two University of Minnesota bioethicists -- one current and one former -- have ponied up some dough, saying that if this woman would come forward and prove that the HPV vaccine caused her daughter's retardation, they'll pay out of their own pockets.

Steven Miles, a U of M professor, started the bidding with $1,000, which was then matched and exceeded by his former boss Art Caplan, now at the University of Pennsylvania, according to the Star Tribune. The professors say such wild accusations, when loosed into the public opinion pool, can have a damning effect when scared parents won't vaccinate their kids.


Bachmann originally edged toward the "vaccines are bad for you" crowd during the debate, when she said the "innocent" little girls subjected to them could have a "negative reaction to this potentially dangerous" vaccine, which is apparently more dangerous than, you know, actual cervical cancer.

The next day, Bachmann fell deeper down the rabbit hole, telling the story of a crying mother who came up to her at the debate's end.

Michele Bachmann told her crazy story from Monday yesterday on "Today."

Michele Bachmann told her crazy story from Monday yesterday on "Today."

"She told me," Bachmann said, "that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter."

Later that same day, Bachmann backed-off completely, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity she had "no idea" if the two were linked, but, you know, this one lady told me about it.

Bunk, say the bioethicists, who are pretty curious to meet the woman who told Bachmann this story, which she then repeated on "The Today Show," with its five-plus million viewers. In explaining to the Star Tribune why he threw down the offer originally, Stiles, the University of Minnesota professor, even cast some doubt that the story is real at all.

"These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm," Miles told the Star Tribune. "The woman, assuming she exists, put this claim into the public domain and it's an extremely serious claim and it deserves to be analyzed."

So, the chase is on. If anyone can find this Florida mother, and prove that her daughter is the first documented case to become mentally retarded after taking a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer... oh, who are we kidding? You don't make an offer like this if you think this lady's out there and her story's true.

Miles' and Caplan's bank accounts are safe. The same cannot be said for "innocent" little girls whose mothers believe what Michele Bachmann says.