From the October 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative media are denying recent reports that sliding financial support has stalled research on infectious diseases and vaccine development, ignoring evidence that funding shortfalls have handicapped the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, told The Huffington Post on October 10 that "a decade of stagnant spending has 'slowed down' research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases." Conservative outlets pivoted off of Collins' statement to misleadingly claim that an overall increase in the CDC's budget proves that a lack of funding has not hindered research on and the response to diseases like the Ebola virus.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy said that the "CDC budget wasn't cut at all" and told viewers to "remember that money to [the CDC and the NIH] actually went up rather than got cut." On the October 13 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly argued that "the CDC got plenty of money," including "significant budget increases."
But both the NIH and agencies inside the CDC have experienced funding problems over the past decade. As The Huffington Post pointed out, the NIH's purchasing power has dipped significantly:
NIH's purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency's budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion -- barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.
Right-wing media figures are accusing President Obama of purposely wanting "to infect the nation with Ebola" because he wants a "redistribution" of wealth, and a new "civil war."
Conservatives have previously claimed Obama "deliberately" "planned" the humanitarian border crisis; deliberately abandoned Americans to die in Benghazi; was "purposefully creating drama" like the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash; and tried to intentionally destroy the economy as payback.
The Ebola conspiracy theory is also making its way into politics. As Right Wing Watch noted, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) wondered if Obama is intentionally delaying a Ebola response "to create a greater crisis to use it as a blunt force to say, well in order to solve this crisis we're going to have to take control of the economy and individuals and so forth."
Here's a look at media figures who have suggested President Obama is purposely trying to infect Americans with Ebola.
Laura Ingraham: Obama Willing To Expose Military To "The Ebola Virus To Carry Out This Redistribution Of The Privileged's Wealth." Ingraham, a contributor to ABC News and Fox News, suggested on her September 26 radio program that Obama is willing to expose American soldiers to Ebola to atone for colonialism:
INGRAHAM: [T]he military is just another tool in his arsenal to level the playing field, right? I mean, in other words, Africa really deserves more of America's money because we're people of privilege. We're people of great privilege, so we should do what we can, we the American taxpayers, to transfer wealth over to Africa. It's his father's rage against colonialism, as Dinesh D'Souza wrote about, and maybe this is a way to continue to atone for that.
INGRAHAM: If a few American military personnel have to be exposed to the Ebola virus to carry out this redistribution of the privileged's wealth, then so be it.
Alex Jones: Obama Is "Letting Ebola In" As Part Of Plan To "Bankrupt Us" And "Start A Civil War With Obama As Its Head As The New Lincoln." Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist, alleged on his October 8 radio program that "the military knows Obama and others are funding radical Islam. They know the borders are open, they know they're letting Ebola in ... this is to bankrupt us under Cloward and Piven. But it's beyond that and now they want to start a civil war with Obama at its head as the new Lincoln."
Jones's YouTube channel includes videos with headlines such as "Ebola Threat Is Just The Crisis Obama Needs To Stay in Office," "Obama Using Military as Ebola Guinea Pigs," "The Federal Government Wants Ebola To Spread" and "Why Obama Brought Ebola To U.S. Exposed: Special Report."
Fox News ramped up its attempted character assassination of CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden with direct calls for his resignation, suggestions that he is uninformed on the spread of infectious disease, and a comparison of the public servant to Saddam Hussein's one-time propaganda minister.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Laura Ingraham attacked Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for his handling of public relations in the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola contraction in the United States. Ingraham assailed Director Frieden, claiming that he "is on the verge of becoming the Baghdad Bob of the health care community," and claimed that he seems less like a health care professional and more like a member of "the Obama spin room." Co-host Brian Kilmeade joined the attack, claiming the Frieden talks to the public "like children" before promoting the idea of appointing former Republican Senator Bill Frist to run the United States' Ebola response:
Ingraham's use of "Baghdad Bob" is an allusion to former Ba'ath Party spokesperson and Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, who gained international notoriety in 2003 for repeated and obviously false claims that American troops were being rolled back by the defensive forces of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The Denver Post's endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (CO) claimed that he posed "no threat to abortion rights," a declaration that ignores Gardner's support of federal personhood legislation that would greatly infringe on women's access to health care and legal abortion.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
From the October 12 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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From the October 12 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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CNN Tonight turned to ophthalmologist and fiction writer Dr. Robin Cook to hype unsubstantiated fears about the transmission of the Ebola Virus and the CDC's grasp on the situation.
Presenting Cook as "The Man Who Wrote The Book On Ebola," host Don Lemon called Cook's 1987 fiction thriller Outbreak, which details an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.," prophetic." Lemon allowed Cook to speculate that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot adequately protect Americans from Ebola, and that despite the CDC's assertions to the contrary, the virus may live in the air or mutate into a form that can spread as an aerosol.
Cook's theories on the transmission of Ebola are out of step with nearly every expert from international health agencies and the CDC. As Vox reported, "basically every health agency in the world agrees" that Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. The CDC definitively says: "Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food."
Medical experts further agree that it's highly unlikely Ebola could mutate into a form that alters its mode of transmission. That type of mutation would be unprecedented according to Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello, who wrote: "We have been studying viruses for over 100 years, and we've never seen a human virus change the way it is transmitted," and that "There is no reason to believe that Ebola virus is any different from any of the viruses that infect humans and have not changed the way that they are spread."
Fox News attempted to spin reports that some health insurance plans that do not meet minimum standards under the Affordable Care Act will be discontinued as a "new Obamacare bombshell" and death blow to the health care law.
The October 9 edition of America's Newsroom raised concerns over recent news that some health insurance plans not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act would be cancelled at the end of the year. Fox Business host Stuart Varney declared the cancellations to be a "political bombshell." The previous day, network host Shannon Bream called news of the cancelled plans a "new Obamacare controversy."
A headline on FoxNews.com declared that the canceled plans were evidence of an "Obamacare Death Knell":
Of course, the cancellation of plans that do not meet minimum coverage requirements was always a "part of the design of the health care law," as the New York Times explained, and meant to allow new insurance plans to be "more comprehensive and fair, with prices less variable by customers' ages and health status."
Last year, the Obama administration delayed the requirement that all plans cover a minimum standard of health benefits and medical bills, giving states the ability to allow insurers to extend existing plans that were not up to par -- something many states and insurance providers opted against. As the Washington Post reported, federal policy allows these non-compliant plans to continue through 2017 in some states, but some insurers are cancelling them now in favor of ACA-compliant plans.
Non-compliant plans which fall short of now-basic standards can be dangerous to the policy holder -- as studies show being underinsured carries many of the same risks as lacking insurance all together. As a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Post, those who may lose their non-compliant plans will "have access to better options through the health-insurance marketplace . . . [including] the opportunity to qualify for financial assistance to help them afford premiums and improved consumer protections."
Fox also ignored the realities of the insurance market -- these insurance plans may have been discontinued anyway. According to Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR), most consumers have year-long policies with health insurance companies that often changed at the end of the policy year, and "in most states insurers are allowed to increase premiums, increase cost-sharing, and/or reduce the scope of benefits covered."
Such phony outrage over discontinued plans is just the latest in Fox News' sustained campaign to undermine the ACA with misinformation, spin, and zombie lies -- despite news that the health care law has greatly reduced the nation's uninsured rate.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama for sending the U.S. military to help address the public health crisis posed by Ebola in Africa, ignoring experts who explain the critical need for assistance to contain the outbreak and the military's unique capability to support in those efforts.
From the October 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Right-wing media are falsely blaming the recent surge of undocumented children from Central America for spreading a deadly strain of the enterovirus. Conservatives are claiming the children are a form of "biological warfare" and President Obama and the government are "bringing in infected children and putting them in our public schools" because he's "so obsessed with winning Latino votes." However, the disease has been detected in the country for decades and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told Media Matters that there is "no evidence" of a link.
Fearmongering about undocumented children spreading enterovirus D68 is the latest chapter in the conservative media's book of xenophobic smears. The right-wing media, in their efforts to oppose immigration reform, have previously blamed undocumented immigrants for diseases such as Hansen's disease (leprosy) and tuberculosis.
This year, a surge of unaccompanied children fled violence-stricken Central America and crossed the border into the United States. Many of the children were relocated to various cities and are starting school.
The CDC has confirmed over 600 cases of EV-D68 since mid-August. The agency notes that "Almost all the confirmed cases this year of EV-D68 infection have been among children. Many of the children had asthma or a history of wheezing." While investigations are ongoing, the virus has been "detected in specimens from five patients who died and had samples submitted for testing."
Public health experts have debunked the alleged connection between the influx of undocumented children into the United States and the spread of EV-D68. CDC spokesperson Jeanette St. Pierre told Media Matters: "Currently, there is no evidence from testing at CDC that EV-D68 infections in the U.S. are a result of unaccompanied minors moving into the country."
MLive reported that conservatives "have implied a link between undocumented children from Central America and the spread of enterovirus, but public health experts say that's simply not the case." The Michigan-based site, which publishes The Grand Rapids Press and others, wrote:
The publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader penned an editorial attacking the Obama administration's response to the ongoing Ebola crisis and suggested the president apply a travel ban on the affected countries, advice that has been roundly rejected by major healthcare and infectious disease experts as detrimental to relief efforts.
In an October 7 editorial, Joseph W. McQuaid blasted the administration as "incompetent" for relying on screening to prevent the spread of Ebola and instead suggested that a general travel ban to the region be administered:
Sending American soldiers to West Africa to assist with the Ebola epidemic makes sense only if it helps contain the disease over there. That would include making as certain as possible that those troops are protected while there and properly quarantined when they return home.
As for allowing travelers from affected West African nations to enter the United States at this time, that is crazy. It is yet another example of the most incompetent President we have ever seen.
Screening for symptoms of a deadly infectious disease that may not show up for weeks is not the answer. A travel ban to and from West Africa is what is needed, now.
McQuaid and other right-wing pundits who have called for a travel ban are ignoring experts who say a ban would actually impede Ebola relief efforts. The heads of the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and independent advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO), all argue that reactionary measures such as a travel ban are ineffectual and could actually destabilize affected countries, worsening the spread of the virus. The WHO, advocating against a travel ban in October 2014, explained that while exit screening is not 100 percent effective, "completion of a screening questionnaire and testing for the presence of fever represent the best available indicators of risk."