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Bachmann on HPV: "I wasn't speaking as a doctor"

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., arrives for a rally in Costa Mesa, Calif., Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Monday downplayed the significance of her recent remarks regarding the HPV vaccine, though she didn't necessarily back track from the erroneous statements.

"I wasn't speaking as a doctor. I wasn't speaking as a scientist," Bachmann said on CNN. "I was merely passing on... what I had heard."

In a Republican debate last week, Bachmann attacked GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry for making the vaccine mandatory for girls in Texas. After the debate, she charged that the vaccine, which prevents the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, is dangerous and could cause mental retardation.

"There's a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate," Bachmann said on Fox News following the debate. "She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences."

Bachmann said on CNN on Monday that the more important point was that Perry was abusing his power by making the vaccine mandatory through an executive order.

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In Iowa on Monday, Bachmann similarly told the Associated Press, "All I was doing is relaying what a woman had said. I relayed what she said. I wasn't attesting to her accuracy. I wasn't attesting to anything."

Medical experts have spoken out against Bachmann's remarks, saying the vaccine is safe and could save lives. However, they're concerned the Minnesota Republican's comments could have a lasting impact on public misconceptions about the drug, the New York Times reported.

Since Perry entered the race last month, the other Republican nominees have been busy trying to tamp down his campaign's momentum. Perry's candidacy has seemed to overshadow Bachmann's campaign in particular -- her poll numbers have dropped significantly as his have risen. In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll out today, Perry leads the field with 31 percent, while Mitt Romney comes in second with 24 percent. Rep. Ron Paul gained 13 percent support, while Bachmann earned 5 percent.

In Iowa Monday, Bachmann also took aim at Perry's position on immigration-related issues, such as his opposition to building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, according to the AP. Perry's stance on immigration issues has been a point of contention for Texas Tea Partiers, the Houston Chronicle reports.

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