Media Promote Ebola Fear-Mongering Stunt

Fox News and several newspapers hyped a stunt designed to increase fear of Ebola, carried out by a doctor at an airport where he wore protective clothing displaying the “CDC is lying.”

Dr. Gil Mobley of Missouri walked through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on October 2, clad in protective medical clothing, goggles, and breathing mask, with the words “CDC is lying” painted on his back. Mobley's publicity stunt soon gained pickup thanks to a Fox News interview and coverage in several newspapers.

On Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Mobley was interviewed for nearly 9 minutes, exclaiming that “people need to be scared.” He then warned that Ebola will soon “get to every third-world country, and it's going to devour them,” leading to daily Ebola cases in the U.S. He complained that “I came through international customs last night. Although on the front page of USA Today it says we're screening at airports, there's no thermal screening, they didn't ask where I've been, they didn't ask if I've been sick ... they asked if I had tobacco or alcohol, that is it.” But travelers are being screened in affected countries - Mobley arrived from Guatemala, which has not seen a single case of Ebola.

Despite this hole in Mobley's complaint, other media outlets helped bring his message to prominence as well. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed Mobley about his stunt, where he made claims similar to those on Fox. The New York Daily News also covered Mobley's stunt, using his Journal-Constitution interview. And a U.S. News & World report titled “Ebola Incubation Allowed Patient to Slip Into U.S.” featured a photo of Mobley buying a ticket in his protective suit, highlighting his allegations of CDC mismanagement.

Ebola has received significant attention by the media since the CDC announced a man in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola on September 30. Right-wing media quickly politicized this serious story. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy insisted there was a political angle to the CDC's Ebola warnings and asked the agency's director, “Why should we believe you when you're telling us this stuff?” Many other conservatives hyped fears of Ebola while linking it to immigration policy.