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2014 Lie of the Year: Exaggerations about Ebola

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Right Winger's efforts to whip up a frenzy over Ebola exposed.

2014 Lie of the Year: Exaggerations about Ebola

Thomas Eric Duncan left Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 19, for Dallas. Eleven days later, doctors diagnosed Duncan with Ebola.

Eight days after that, he was dead.

Duncan’s case is just one of two Ebola-related fatalities in the United States, and since Duncan traveled to Dallas, more Americans -- at least nine, and likely many more -- have died from the flu.

Yet fear of the disease stretched to every corner of America this fall, stoked by exaggerated claims from politicians and pundits. They said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants may be carrying the virus across the southern border, that it was all part of a government or corporate conspiracy.

The claims -- all wrong -- distorted the debate about a serious public health issue. Together, they earn our Lie of the Year for 2014.

PolitiFact editors choose the Lie of the Year, in part, based on how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking. In 2013, it was the promise made by President Barack Obama and other Democrats that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." While no singular line about Ebola matched last year’s empty rhetoric about health care, the statements together produced a dangerous and incorrect narrative.

PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.

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.

When combined, the claims edged the nation toward panic. Governors fought Washington over the federal response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled to explain details about transmission of the virus and its own prevention measures. American universities turned away people from Africa, whether they were near the outbreak or not.

"Americans spent March through July thinking that the outbreak was no threat at all, then from August to October, it was the apocalypse," said Stephen Gire, a researcher who has been to West Africa and is studying the Ebola genome at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "And now in December, a year after the first case of Ebola infected a young Guinean, Americans are complaining that it was all ‘overhyped.’

"During this whole year, people in West Africa have been dying of Ebola at an increasing rate. We as Americans are so far removed from the reality of what is really going on."

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PolitiFact editors choose the Lie of the Year, in part, based on how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking. In 2013, it was the promise made by President Barack Obama and other Democrats that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it."


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First place among readers went to "Global warming is a hoax," a statement made by a losing congressional candidate in south Louisiana.

Here are the full results:

  • 31.8% "Global warming is a hoax." —Lenar Whitney. Pants on Fire.
  • 18.8% The United States has seen "a net loss of people with health insurance" because of Obamacare. —John Boehner. False.
  • 17.8% The State Department says the 42,000 jobs created by the Keystone XL pipeline are "ongoing, enduring jobs." —Russ Girling. False.
  • 8.8% "At least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas" and there are "dozens more that did not get caught by the Border Patrol." —Duncan Hunter. Pants on Fire.
  • 8.6% "My position hasn’t changed" on using executive authority to address immigration issues. —Barack Obama. False.
  • 4.1% Says President Barack Obama has issued upwards of 1,000 executive orders, more than any modern president. —Chain email. Pants on Fire.
  • 3.5% Amid the "crisis at our southern border," there are "reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as … Ebola virus." —Phil Gingrey. Pants on Fire.
  • 2.7% Some doctors say Ebola can be transmitted through the air by "a sneeze or some cough." —George Will. False.
  • 1.9% Says his comment about extremists being a JV team "wasn’t specifically referring to" Islamic State. —Barack Obama. False.
  • 1.8% Other (Examples: "All of the above"; "####### Cheney saying that torture was effective"; "if you like your health care plan you can keep it"; "they’re all liars, I’m sick of everyone.")
  • 0.2% "The only candidate pocketing big money from people who want to destroy coal is Mitch McConnell." —Alison Lundergan Grimes. False.

That's 8 out of 11 lies that were candidates for lie of the year (accounting for almost 90% of the total vote cast) coming from the right wing of the political spectrum. Just so we're very clear about that. They win in the lying department hands down. And yet, there are still some that take them seriously. :rofl:

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Just because we have (at least so far) avoided an epidemic here does not mean proper precautions are unnecessary. Your conclusions are misleading at best.

The conclusions are that certain politicians and the media spread fear and panic by making sensational false claims.

Nowhere in there does it say precautions against the spread of dangerous diseases are unnecessary. Unless you are reading a different article....?

Edited by Hail Ming!

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Just because we have (at least so far) avoided an epidemic here does not mean proper precautions are unnecessary. Your conclusions are misleading at best.

You failed reading comprehension again. Proper precautions were never at issue. Spreading false fear and panic is what's at issue.

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There you go again. Gratuitous attack.

For your information, proper precautions certainly include warnings and avoidance behavior. No one sane was trying to induce panic, but you and your ilk were gleefully mocking and interpreting proper preventative measures as such. I would say you are the ones that have tried to instigate panic.


Hillary Lied. People Died.

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Why dont you stick to the content of the article rather than making up things that have little, if anything to do with it?

If you don't think politicians and the media whipped up hysteria and panic that had nothing to do with the facts, please feel free to explain.

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There you go again. Gratuitous attack.

For your information, proper precautions certainly include warnings and avoidance behavior. No one sane was trying to induce panic, but you and your ilk were gleefully mocking and interpreting proper preventative measures as such. I would say you are the ones that have tried to instigate panic.

Again, that's not what this is about. Read what's posted in the OP. Those are LIES. Try as you may but you will fail trying to defend the indefensible.

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I think we can all agree that there was a lot of hype about the Ebola epidemic that never was, in the US. Another victory for our medical and scientific community and the United States as a country. Unfortunately there is always those who cringe at our nation's accomplishments for reasons we all know only too well.

Edited by JohnR!

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I think we can all agree that there was a lot of hype about the Ebola epidemic that never was, in the US. Another victory for our medical and scientific community and the United States as a country. Unfortunately there is always those who cringe at our nation's accomplishments for reasons we all know only too well.

Is it safe to come out now?

post-129259-0-34426300-1418916946_thumb.jpg

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