Michele Bachmann has an awkward chat with Jay Leno, who pushed the Republican over gay marriage and the HPV vaccine
For many celebrities, Jay Leno’s Tonight Show is a fairly gentle outlet for publicity. But as Michele Bachmann discovered, Leno can have a sharp edge when he chooses to unsheath it.
If the Republican presidential contender was expecting a few jokes and some good PR, she didn’t get it. Instead, the late-night talkshow host asked pointed questions about Bachmann’s disputed objections to the HPV vaccine and gay marriage in an awkward encounter that showed Bachmann to be evasive under Leno’s probing, while her own attempts at jokes fell flat.
The omens weren’t good as Leno announced his line-up of guests, the audience giving big cheers for Jason Statham and Lady Antebellum – but not a single whoop could be heard for Bachmann when her name was mentioned.
After Bachmann came on stage to Walking on Sunshine, Leno dispensed with chit-chat and quickly asked Bachmann about her attacks on Texas governor Rick Perry’s support for the HPV vaccine.
“Is that bad? it’s a vaccine to prevent to prevent cervical cancer,” asked Leno.
“Well I think so,” replied Bachmann. “The concern is that there are 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, that if she’s sexually active that she doesn’t have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases.”
Bachmann had denounced Perry’s support for mandatory use of the vaccine in the Republican candidates debate on Monday – when she had also made unsubstantiated claims that the vaccine was dangerous.
Pressed by Leno – “I’m not sure it’s a sense of assurance. It can prevent cervical cancer,” he said – Bachmann again insisted: “It’s something that could potentially have dangerous side effects.”
Bachmann’s claims have been disputed by medical authorities, who say there is no evidence hat the vaccine has serious side-efects.
Leno asked Bachmann about her later claim to have met an unidentified woman following the debate who said her daughter had “mental retardation” as a result of the HPV vaccine. “Do you regret not getting this woman’s name and address?”
“I don’t know who this person was,” Bachmann replied. “I wasn’t speaking as a doctor, I wasn’t speaking as a scientist, I was just relating what this woman told me.”
Leno kept pushing, asking: “So other vaccines you’d be OK with, smallpox and things like that?” But Bachmann ducked the question, saying: “That wasn’t even the issue.”
Asking about the clinic run by her husband, Leno was even more dismissive: “That whole ‘pray the gay away’ thing, I don’t get that.”
“When I heard that I thought it was a mid-life crisis thing, ‘prayer raises grey’,” was Bachmann’s lame attempt at a jokey reply, which drew only an annoyed grunt from Leno.
“You know what I’m saying,” he said.
“To me, when I was a kid, they used to try and teach me to write right-handed … to me that’s the same thing if you’re gay. I’ve been married 31 years, first wife, very happy. Two gay guys get married, how does that affect my marriage?”
Bachmann didn’t attempt to answer the point, instead replying: “The whole thing is, with clinics, whatever issue anyone has, we don’t discriminate, we don’t discriminate with people’s issues.”
But if gay people want to get married, “why is that even an issue?” Leno asked. Bachmann again backed away from an answer: “The family is foundational and marriage between a man and a woman is what the law has been for years,” is all she could manage, along with a tight smile.
At one point, Leno told Bachmann: “You seem strident in your views.” No, said Bachmann, “I’m convicted.” Leno corrected her: “You don’t get convicted until after you’ve been in office.”
In his opening monologue, Leno had a gag about Rick Perry’s meeting with Donald Trump on Thursday: “That’s a good combination: a guy who talks to God and a guy who thinks he’s god.”