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Chris Wallace Shoots Down George Will's Fearmongering Over Ebola Being Airborne

Even Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace had to put the brakes on George Will's fearmongering over the possibility of the Ebola virus being airborne.
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During a panel discussion on the administration's decision to go ahead and appoint an "Ebola czar" and some of the missteps made by the CDC in their handling of the few cases we've had here in the United States, host Chris Wallace played a portion of the CDC Director Tom Frieden's press conference and then asked George Will to respond.

FRIEDEN: I think there are two different parts of that equation,” he continued. “The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no.

Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.

Will of course, used the occasion to stoke up more fear that Americans should be afraid to get on a plane or a bus.

WILL: Well, that is the problem. If you're now feeling healthy, you're going to go on feeling healthy, you can't get Ebola sitting next to someone, but if you have flu-like symptoms or Ebola-like symptoms, don't get on the bus because you might expose someone. You can't square that circle.

The problem is, the original assumption was, with great certitude if not certainty was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids from someone because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be, in some senses, transmitted by airborne.

Will was immediately questioned by Wallace and his fellow guest, Neera Tanden as to where he had heard those claims and reminded Will that the CDC, World Health Organization have said that the disease is not airborne and you have to have interaction with body fluids to become infected. Will did his best to try to stretch the definition of what you would call airborne.

And as Tanden rightfully pointed out before Will began his spiel over the disease potentially being airborne, there are a whopping whole three people in the United States who have the disease right now. Three out of a country of with a population of over 300 million people.

This isn't the first time Will has used Ebola to spread panic and fear. Two weeks ago he used Ebola to attack sexual assault probes, Common Core and opposition to the name of the Washington Redskins football team.

Update: Full transcript via Fox:

WALLACE: Neera, I want to go bigger than Ron Klain. As the head of think tank that has close ties for the White House, how do you explain all of the screw-ups in the government response to the Ebola situation here in the U.S. so far?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, I think it's clear that CDC was -- gave, you know, some inaccurate protocol information right at the beginning of this. They even said so on Thursday in "The New York Times" that the protocol should have been closer to Doctors Without Borders.

I do think the administration is taking the right steps, the CDC SWAT teams actually going in wherever there is a patient immediately. That's an important step. The steps they are taking now are really critical. But I do think we should put them --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Not to relitigate, but you had, and we played this for Dr. Fauci, Frieden saying we can stop this in the tracks. Lisa Monaco saying every hospital in this country knows how to isolate. President Obama talking about I'm hugging nurses. I mean, there was an overstatement, an over-certainty that I think has hurt the government's credibility. TANDEN: Look, I think, actually, Dr. Fauci answered these things very well. And I think this is -- it's important that Dr. Fauci is out, because these are actually public health issues.

And I think the challenge here, and he said very clearly -- look, we have three cases so far. Three hundred million people, three cases. We don't want to institute panic in the country. We now see some instances of some overreaction in the public. We want to get to these cases. There should have been CDC SWAT teams at every single location --

WALLACE: Would you have felt good if you were on that plane with the woman who was told by the CDC to fly when it turned out that she had Ebola?

TANDEN: I wouldn't feel great about it, but on the other hand, I don't think it's right, right now, for the media to instill a level of panic in the country that doesn't -- that can lead to counterproductive results.

We want people who are sick to come forward. And we think -- this is a public health issue. It shouldn't be a political crisis. It is a public health issue.

WALLACE: Fair enough.

George, we spoke yesterday and you said you wanted to focus on comments that Tom Frieden, the head of CDC made. This was about a video that President Obama sent to the hot zone in which he said you can get on a bus and you don't have to worry about catching Ebola. Frieden was asked about that. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: If you're a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on the bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill. You might have a problem that exposes someone around you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: George, you say that's the problem.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's the problem. Don't get -- if you're now feeling healthy, you're going to go on feeling healthy, because you can't get Ebola sitting next to someone. But if you have flu-like symptoms or Ebola-like symptoms, don't get on the bus because you might expose some -- you can't square that circle.

The problem is, the original assumption was that with great certitude, if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids with someone, because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be in some instances transmitted by airborne.

WALLACE: I'm not sure that's true.

TANDEN: Where are you getting the doctors who are saying that it's not airborne? I mean, we've had CDC, we've had the World Health Organization -- doctors have been treating this for 40 years and not just like Ebola just started. Where are the doctors? We had Dr. Osterholm here too who's basically critical of some elements of this, but he's also saying there's basics facts around this.

WILL: Well, among the basic facts are that those who said that it's not airborne, you must however understand, they said that the fluids can be infectious for up to a number of days on --

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Yes. But you have to have interaction with fluids.

WILL: -- on a dry surface, hence they want, well, when you get on an airport perhaps, you should clean the armrest and the tray. In fact, there are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious?

TANDEN: I'm sorry, who are the doctors saying this? I mean, we have -- I mean, this is what I think is really important, that facts about this disease do not lead to panic. So far, every expert that I've seen have said --

WILL: Every expert that you've seen. Here we go again.

TANDEN: Well, more (ph) physicians.

WILL: Here we go again.

TANDEN: The CDC.

WILL: People saying --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I do want to say this, though, in the interest that there is no indication so far that it is airborne that, yes, if there's fluid, and you're a couple feet away, it can have an impact, but it isn't that you can just breathe the air --

WILL: But isn't that airborne?

WALLACE: Well, no, it's contact with a fluid. It's different than the flu. It's different than the flu.

TANDEN: It's different from the flu.

WALLACE: So, we do want to say with what we know and we don't know anything to contradict that.


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