Ted Cruz: Obama’s Public Health Experts Can’t Be Trusted
Policy + Politics

Ted Cruz: Obama’s Public Health Experts Can’t Be Trusted

Reuters/Jim Bourg

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Sunday dismissed President Obama’s newly appointed Ebola czar as a “political operative” without the medical background necessary for the job — and he urged Americans to ignore the judgment of government health officials because they “are repeating the administration’s talking points.”

Cruz is one of a number of politicians calling for a more drastic response to the disease which, to date, has infected two Americans, both nurses who cared directly for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who contracted the disease in his home country and fell ill in Texas. 

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Cruz and other Republicans have called for a ban that would prevent travelers from the three West African countries currently being ravaged by the disease from entering the U.S. Appearing on CNN on Sunday morning, Cruz presented a travel ban as an obvious an effective means of preventing the spread of Ebola to the U.S.

Public health officials have said such a ban would be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Asked by CNN host Candy Crowley about those criticisms, Cruz dismissed them.

“The doctors and the experts that are saying this are working for the administration and are repeating the administration’s talking points, and their arguments don’t make sense,” Cruz said.

In response to a question about what mistakes had been made in the Texas hospital where Duncan was treated that allowed the nurses to become infected, Cruz pivoted again to the travel ban. “The first mistake that was made was allowing Thomas Duncan get on an airplane and fly to the United States. If he hadn’t flown to the United States, none of the other mistakes would have happened,” Cruz said.

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By refusing to heed calls for a travel ban, he said, “The Obama White House is digging in and not listening to the voices of common sense coming from both sides of the aisle.” 

Appearing on the program shortly after Cruz, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infections Diseases, said the senator has the facts absolutely backwards. In conversations with the administration, he said, he has been consistently asked for his medical judgment, not told what to say. “That is just not the case,” Fauci said. “I’ve never had an experience where the president is telling me to tell him something that he wants to hear." 

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Fauci, who made the rounds of the various talks shows Sunday morning, also addressed criticism from Cruz and others of the president’s selection of Ron Klain, an attorney and Democratic operative, as the administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator, or Ebola Czar. Cruz, who moments before had dismissed the opinions of doctors who work for the administration, blasted Obama for not putting a doctor in the job.

“That’s a misplaced criticism,” Fauci said on ABC’s This Week. “What we’re talking about now is an Ebola Response Coordinator. Somebody who has extraordinary – as he does – managerial experience.… He’s going to rely on medical experts to do the medical things.” 

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The response to Ebola dominated the Sunday shows, including NBC’s Meet the Press, which dedicated half of its program to a so-called “Ebola Summit.” Across the programs, though, medical professionals refused to cater to the hype from journalists or the fear-mongering of politicians.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace introduced Dr. Michael Osterholm, a prominent epidemiologist and a professor at the University of Minnesota, calling him a critic of the Obama administration’s response to the disease.

Osterholm quickly clarified that while he has been critical of the administration, his concerns lie in the failure to address the outbreak in Africa, not in the U.S. Like others in his field, he warned that as long as the disease rages out of control in Africa, limited cases will make it into other countries, well-intentioned travel bans notwithstanding.

But the idea that an out of control Ebola epidemic will occur in the United States, he said, is not something people need to worry about. “We will not have a community-wide outbreak in this country,” he said flatly.

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