December 16, 2014

Surprising no one anywhere ever, Politifact has named the Ebola hysteria just before the midterms as the 2014 Lie of the Year.

Yet fear of the disease stretched to every corner of America this fall, stoked by exaggerated claims from politicians and pundits. They said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants may be carrying the virus across the southern border, that it was all part of a government or corporate conspiracy.

The claims -- all wrong -- distorted the debate about a serious public health issue. Together, they earn our Lie of the Year for 2014.

Golf clap. It certainly vindicates us here at Crooks and Liars, since we expended a ton of energy and bandwidth pushing back on the outbreak of irrational hysteria over it.

But media never learns, do they?

PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.

Again I say "duh." Didn't we say that over and over and over? WHY is it that these pronouncements happen after the feeding frenzy that conveniently helps to elect Republicans?

Proof positive:

The panicked warnings that flared up in October all but disappeared a month later.

Over the course of November, Ebola mentions on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC dropped 82 percent, according to a review of closed caption transcripts. Mentions on the three cable networks dipped another 35 percent in the first week of December.

At the same time, at least 3,578 more people contracted Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, and another 1,119 people died. Overall, the death toll has crept near 6,400.

Fear elects Republicans. What better way to stoke fear than to claim Obama was going to allow an African virus to kill us all, right?

In early October, Fox News posted a list of the top nine scariest pandemic movies. At the top was the 1995 film Outbreak, in which a virus mutates, becomes airborne and forces the Army to consider dropping a nuclear weapon on a sleepy California town.

"Whether it's rabid zombies, Ebola-like viruses or both, outbreak films are beginning to feel a bit too real nowadays," Fox wrote.

Finally, the postscript:

Last week, an American nurse working in Sierra Leone was admitted to the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland after being exposed to the virus.

The story barely registered on cable news.

Because the Republicans were elected already! There's no need to give a damn anymore.

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