Even Ed Rollins said last night on MSNBC that she should admit the mistake and move on. Today she had the chance — and passed on it. Which is interesting, because she did happily cop to a much more benign mistake a few months ago when she goofed on John Wayne’s hometown.

Of the two, apparently this is the one she’s willing to go to the mat on. The unfounded, potentially life-threatening proposition that vaccinating your kids against HPV might lead to “retardation.” Wonderful.

“During the debate, I didn’t make any statements that would indicate that I’m a doctor, I’m a scientist or that I’m making any conclusions about the drug one way or another,” the GOP presidential hopeful told reporters here who questioned her about the story she told suggesting that the vaccine had caused mental retardation. Asked whether she would apologize for comments that outraged medical experts say will discourage parents from getting their children immunized, Bachmann said: “Oh, I’m not going to answer that.”

Talking to reporters here outside a breakfast meeting with Tea Party supporters, the Minnesota congresswoman tried to steer the conversation away from the science and back to Perry.

“I think if you look at the debate, my point was very clear and it’s the fact that there was an abuse of power,” she said. “And then secondary after that is the idea of crony capitalism.”

Actually, her attack on Perry at the debate started with a warning about little girls having a “negative reaction” to a “potentially dangerous drug.” The alleged abuse of power — a mandate with an opt-out — and the crony capitalism angle were both subordinate to that what-is-Rick-Perry-doing-to-our-daughters point. But don’t take my word for it. Read the quote yourself, which Bachmann’s now using on her website to goose fundraising.

As an antidote to all this I’m giving you two videos, one from KTRK in Houston and the other from Fox News via Greg Hengler, describing Perry’s friendship with a woman named Heather Burcham who died of cervical cancer when she was just 31. It’s not proof that his motives were pure in issuing the Gardasil mandate rather than something he did at the behest of one of his corporate donors, but it’s compelling evidence. In fact, before you watch, read this Megan McArdle post making the case for Gardasil on the merits and for Perry’s clean hands in approving the drug. Exit quotation: “Is it somehow crazy to even think that a governor might have wanted to authorize a vaccine which could wipe out many of the most common strains of HPV?”

Update (Ed): Say, remember which candidate in the debate said that presidential hopefuls don’t get second chances? Because I sure do. I wonder if that candidate will take her own advice.