Ebola We Can Handle, But Fox Is Another Matter

Ebola, a nasty virus, is now being used by Fox “News,” a less-nasty virus, to do what it is that Fox usually does: create fear and infect gullible minds.

Bill O’Reilly started his Talking Points segment last night with this:

The Ebola situation gets even worse.

He went on to talk about the “growing Ebola chaos in the U.S.A.” 

As Media Matters reported, O’Reilly a few days ago attacked Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, for being a “chief propagandist,” saying he should resign for not doing what Dr. O’Reilly thinks he should have done.

We all know that Fox exists in order to tear down Democrats and promote Republicans. One way it tears down Democrats is by undermining trust in our governing institutions, since Democrats generally favor government and Republicans make a political living off attacking it. Dr. Frieden just happens to be Fox’s target at the moment.

The morning before O’Reilly talked about Frieden being a propagandist, Laura Ingraham had already beat him to it. On IQ-hating Fox and Friends, she shamefully said that Dr. Frieden “is on the verge of becoming the Baghdad Bob of the health care community.” Frieden’s sin, say Fox’s many preachers, is that he trying to sugar-coat what is going on and that the government is not only incompetent, but hiding from the public essential information about Ebola.

But there is one member of the Fox on-air clergy who, time and again, refuses to cast the first stone in situations like this. His name is Shepard Smith and here was his sermon yesterday:

Of course Shep couldn’t say it, but we all know that his message was mostly for his fellow Foxers, who have known little shame in their coverage of Ebola.

But stirring up irrational fear and institutional distrust over Ebola isn’t just confined to Fox. CNN has done it and so has MSNBC, most recently this morning. On Morning Joe—where Joe Scarborough has been mucking up the issue with irresponsible speculation—I heard Nicolle Wallace, former Bushie, ask with utter seriousness that since medical disaster movies like “Outbreak” were made 20 years ago,

Why couldn’t the medical community have had a plan on the shelf for 20 years?

Fortunately, a guest on the show, Dr. Emily Senay, was there to bring a little sanity to the discussion by essentially saying people like Wallace were promoting hysteria. And they should stop.

Here’s how that segment went:

At the center of the government’s response (which has been hampered by the right-wing’s budget-cutting mania) to Ebola is the guy Fox and others have attacked, the CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden. Guess what he did? He and his people made mistakes. And he was big enough to admit it. He came right out and said so. He has now sent a team of experts to Dallas and said, “I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed.”

 I don’t know about you, but I want a guy like that, who is as competent as they come when it comes to working in public health and who is willing to admit it when he messes up, to be in charge of something as important as fighting Ebola.

As far as the hospital in Dallas where the two health care workers were infected—the only two in the country so far—they have also admitted, better late than never, that they made a lot of mistakes, too. And you know what? That’s the first step towards fixing things, towards getting it right.

And we will get this thing right. This isn’t Liberia or Sierra Leone. But what we may never be able to fix is right-wing journalism.

6 Comments

  1. Sheppard’s editorial here is commendable, and I was surprised and pleased to hear it. I have to say in all candor, however, that this was not the case with Rachel Maddow’s show last night. She devoted almost all of it to ebola and began by outlining in lurid detail how the virus invades and then destroys the body’s vascular system, ending in bleeding from every orifice, including hypodermic punctures. She then invited a noted epidemiologist to comment, as is her normal practice, on whether she got the thing right and he promptly deflated her lengthy opening by stating that only 28% of those who get the disease experience the bleeding, adding that not everyone dies from it. This was the only occasion I can recall being disappointed in Rachael’s research. I hope she learned a lesson from it but there was no apology from her last night, nor even an admission that she was off the mark.

    Faux News gets it right and Rachael doesn’t. Weird.

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  2. King Beauregard

     /  October 16, 2014

    Surprisingly enough, the best explanation of ebola aired late one weekend in the 1990s:

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=afe_1407293444

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  October 20, 2014

    Duane,

    As to be expected, I offered ideas on Ebola in my own blog. To me containing the disease is not rocket science, something only doctors and other medical professionals can or should be doing.

    The release of Ebola to the environment in America is an emergency to be taken seriously. In any emergency, good command and control is requried and such must come from leaders, not necessarily “experts” in a particular dangerous substance.

    I agree with Dr. Friedman of the CDC that any hospital capable of dealing with infectious diseases should be able to contain Ebola. But that failed to happen in Texas and now we have ………. I don’t want to “blame the victim” for sure. But both nurses failed to do everything right in a dangerous environment. Why?

    Anytime something is so dangerous that everyone dealing with it must be “perfect” that becomes a huge challenge in command and control, making sure everyone does the next right thing, all the time.

    Are we ready in Joplin to ensure such measures are taken, the command and control of do things “right”? We should be but ………. Ebola is not yet “here” and I doubt it will show up in Joplin. But if it does are we ready? I doubt it. And our public officials should never expect the CDC to “do it for us” either, certify that we are in fact “ready” and able to do what is needed, if ………

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      I hope you find it ironic how intensely people on the right are clamoring for big government, in the form of the CDC, to come in and save the day, especially save the day in a private hospital in, of all places, Texas.

      Duane

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  4. Anonymous

     /  October 21, 2014

    I have to admit, I hope that persons leaving West Africa are checked and then checked some more. I worry that a person from that area would do anything to get to the US hospitals for care. I hope our military members are part of the process over there to insure no corruption is taking place, with the process or with supplies we have sent.

    Kabe

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    • I agree, Kabe. Rather than a travel ban, I have always thought it would be fairly easy to station, temporarily at least, officials of some kind at certain airports overseas (we have no direct flights to and from the western African countries involved) and at certain airports here. If your passport says you are from, say, Liberia, you are checked out medically.

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