Earlier this month, the self-described fact-checking outfit Politifact submitted a series of candidates for their Lie of the Year to readers for their perusal. They came up with a variety of great candidates; Barack Obama’s claim that his “position hasn’t changed” with regards to the illegality of the president implementing immigration reform via executive order, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) insisting that 10 ISIS fighters had been apprehended attempting to cross the Mexican border were among them.
The most compelling and obvious candidate for Lie of the Year had to be Obama’s insistence that the Islamic State is merely al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team.” Obama made that statement in January of 2014. By December, America and a coalition of international partners were involved in a new war in Iraq and Syria against this cast of supposed second-stringers. The president’s determination to downplay the threat ISIS represented was a reflection of his Syria strategy, one which centered on his desire to keep America away from that theater of conflict at nearly all cost. This now yielded a far more threatening regional war that America could no longer ignore. Lives are again being lost in the Middle East in a war which will last for years, and all because of a lack of political courage on the part of the president, encapsulated perfectly in that one little lie.
But the absolute worst candidate for Politifact’s Lie of the Year was a claim made by columnist George Will regarding the transmission pathways of Ebola. “There are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious,” Will told the hosts of Fox News Sunday. This claim riled the fact checkers over at Politifact who judged this comment “false” and, when challenged on their ruling, published another repetitive post defending their verdict.
As I wrote at the time, Will’s comment could not be chosen for the Lie of the Year because expectorated particulate fluids emanating from a symptomatic Ebola victim could carry the disease and infect others. The source for this claim is not Will, but the Centers for Disease Control.
“Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person,” a CDC poster on Ebola read.
Surely, I thought, Politifact couldn’t demonstrate such abject partisanship and intellectual dishonesty that they would indict Will for merely repeating information disseminated by the CDC? My lack of faith in this institution’s narrow-minded adherence to ideology above its stated mission was once again tested on Tuesday.
Politifact named “exaggerations about Ebola” as the 2014 Lie of the Year, and included Will among a host of others – including “internet conspirators” and “bloggers” (but not the CDC) – as culprits in this prodigious defrauding of the public.
Fox News analyst George Will claimed Ebola could be spread into the general population through a sneeze or a cough, saying the conventional wisdom that Ebola spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids was wrong.
“The problem is the original assumption, said with great certitude if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids from someone, because it’s not airborne,” Will said. “There are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious.” False.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., described Ebola as “incredibly contagious,” “very transmissible” and “easy to catch.” Mostly False.
Internet conspirators claimed President Obama intended to detain people who had signs of illness. Pants on Fire. Bloggers also said the outbreak was started in a bioweapons lab funded by George Soros and Bill Gates. Pants on Fire.
A Georgia congressman claimed there were reports of people carrying diseases including Ebola across the southern border. Pants on Fire. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Americans were told the country would be Ebola-free. False.
Some of these assertions were misleading, but Politifact’s central thesis – “when combined, the claims edged the nation toward panic” – is unfalsifiable. In the absence of any questioning of the federal response to the Ebola epidemic, an unlikely prospect given the government’s poor performance, Politifact cannot prove there would have been no broader apprehension about the deadly African hemorrhagic fever. In fact, to make that claim would be laughable.
In response to Ebola, Sierra Leone literally canceled Christmas. In Britain, returning health care workers who may have had contact with an Ebola patient will have a lonely holiday as well. They will be forced by government mandate to isolate themselves for the duration of the 21-day incubation period, despite the protestations of health care workers. If Ebola “panic” exists, it is certainly not limited to America and is not the fault of exclusively conservative lawmakers.
Politifact has determined that is a sweeter objective to score political points against Republicans than to hold Obama responsible for the collapse of his principle mandate as president – to extricate America from Middle Eastern wars. Today, and only as a result of Obama’s incompetence and shoddy efforts to mislead the public, American forces are again at work in both old and new theaters in the Middle East combatting terror.
Politifact embarrassed itself again today, but I guess that’s hardly news.