Fear Factor

10.27.14 9:45 AM ET

Republicans Want You Scared of Ebola

The GOP is outright fear-mongering over a handful of infections. Sadly, it’s working -- and just before Election Day.

Is it possible that some Republican elected officials simply don’t follow the news?  

Maybe that explains why they don’t mention the 43 people who had been exposed to Ebola in Texas that were released from quarantine last week after being confined for 21 days— the incubation period for the disease—and declared Ebola-free?

Perhaps that’s why no Republicans discuss that four of those 43 people had shared a small Dallas apartment with the Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, for a week while he was gravely ill with Ebola before he died on Oct. 8. We are talking when Duncan had a 104-degree fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Yet, still none of them contracted the disease.

And we don’t hear a peep from them about the two Americans who had contracted Ebola and who recently overcome the disease. Okay, perhaps they missed NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo being released from a Nebraska hospital Wednesday, but how could they not see Nina Pham, the nurse who had contracted the disease in a Dallas hospital earlier this month, hug President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday?

The GOP’s lack of interest in news must be the explanation for why they continue to whip up fears about Ebola, right? For example, during Thursday’s U.S. Senate debate in New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown mentioned that, “There is a rational fear from citizens in New Hampshire” that “people with diseases are coming through our border.”

Of course, Brown didn’t cite even one example of an Ebola-infected person sneaking into the United States. But hey, facts don’t matter when scaring voters.

And then there’s the tight U.S. Senate race in Louisiana. There, Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Republican opponent, Bill Cassidy, released a statement Tuesday that said President Obama’s handling of the Ebola is “posing an immediate danger” to “Louisiana families.” We also saw three other GOP Senate candidates play the Ebola card this week: Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and Georgia’s David Perdue. First, all three essentially parroted each other by first offering up some scary comments on Ebola. Then each attacked the Obama administration’s handling of the situation, which in turn means that Ebola is likely coming to get you and your family.

And adding to this cacophony of impending calamity was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who on Wednesday told the news media (OK, not quite “news media,” Fox News) that new White House Ebola czar Ron Klain was “off to a bad start.” Nothing like undermining people’s confidence by saying—literally on the guy’s first day on the job—that he’s already screwing up.

These comments are actually tame compared to the off-the-charts, scary chatter heard from the GOP last week.  The craziest of all was Rand Paul, who faulted those who were saying Ebola is not easy to catch. Sen. Paul really sounded the alarm bells with the remark, “We have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down.”  For those actually keeping score, at the time of Paul’s remark, we had only two nurses who’d contracted the disease, and zero physicians.

Coming in second in the race to scare the crap out us was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who warned that ISIS fighters might infect themselves with Ebola and then try to infect us all. Of course, a person is only contagious when manifesting Ebola’s symptoms, such as uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting. At that point, a gravely ill person would have to somehow get their bodily fluids into your system. It has to be challenging to run around and smear your bodily fluids on people when you are uncontrollably pooping and puking.

This rhetoric is in sharp contrast to what we heard Thursday night from Democratic elected officials in New York City after it was determined that a doctor who had recently returned from treating people with Ebola in Guinea had tested positive for the disease. Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the public that everything is under control and there is no reason for panic. Of course, right-wing former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey did her best to undermine these assurances by stating during a radio interview on Sunday that “Our hospitals aren’t ready for Ebola.” 

So why are the Republicans continuing with their one-two punch of “Ebola is going to get you” and “Obama is failing to protect your family?” Simple.  Fear is the GOP’s modus operandi. We have seen the GOP use it effectively in the past regarding gay marriage, Muslims, blacks and Latinos. They scare voters into voting for them because frankly it’s much simpler than discussing complex issues—like creating jobs, immigration reform, or health care. 

And here’s the worst part: Two polls released this week indicate it’s working again. A Politico poll released Monday found that nearly one-third of respondents said they were either losing or have no confidence in the federal government’s handing of the Ebola outbreak.

Add to that a survey released Wednesday that finds that the GOP’s fear-mongering has taken hold of Americans. Almost 46 percent said they were deeply concerned Ebola would spread widely across the country despite the fact that only two people contracted the disease on U.S. soil.

This couldn’t have played out any better for the GOP. First, they scare everyone. Then they position themselves as the guardians of the galaxy who will save us all from this dastardly threat.

I wish I could say that if more in the media called out the Republicans’ fear mongering it would stop. But who are we kidding? The only way Republican leaders will change their tactics is if they lose a few elections in a row doing it. So until that day comes—if ever—be prepared for more rides in the GOP’s House of Horrors.