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December 16, 2014 12:58 PM UTC

Politifact's Lie of the Year: Cory Gardner's Ebola Scare Tactics

  • by: Colorado Pols
Sen.-elect Cory Gardner (R).
Sen.-elect Cory Gardner (R).

From Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checker Politifact–no shortage of lies on the campaign trail in 2014, but here's what they chose as the biggest whopper of this almost-concluded midterm election year:

[Since the first Ebola case in America], 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…

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.


Here in Colorado, the chief promoter of Ebola as a campaign issue this fall was GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner. In October, Gardner's claims about the federal government's response to the Ebola outbreak were slammed by the very same Politifact:

Gardner said the CDC is "spending money on things like jazzercise, urban gardening and massage therapy" that could be redirected [to] Ebola.

We weren’t able to document such expenditures, but given the agency’s spending parameters, it’s certainly possible they’ve been made. However, by cherry-picking three chuckle- (or outrage-) inducing spending items, Gardner presents a misleading description of what the fund does. Those efforts almost certainly represent a tiny fraction of spending from the prevention fund, which is dominated by efforts to attack diseases that kill more than 1.4 million people every year, rather than one so far with Ebola.

The claim contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.


The Hill covered Gardner's as-it-turned-out needless clamor for a travel ban from West African countries in campaign debates against Sen. Mark Udall:

Gardner used the debate to criticize Obama for his response to Ebola and calling for a travel ban.

“If the president’s not willing to put into place a travel ban, then we should have 100 percent screening of the people who are coming from those affected areas,” Gardner said at the debate. 

The conservative Daily Caller dutifully picked up Gardner's refrain:

The administration’s screening plan for flights from West Africa will miss 2,000 to 3,000 people from Ebola-affected countries a year, Rep. Cory Gardner pointed out during the hearing.

The CDC is taking the temperatures of travelers from West Africa at five international airports, but that will capture just 94 percent of incoming passengers from affected countries.

Gardner announced on FOX News on October 16th that the Ebola scare is all Obama's fault:

GARDNER: Well, I don't understand why the White House, why the CDC is opposed to a travel ban.

In fact, if you listen to the excuses the CDC director gave today, he said, we can't do it because of personnel and supplies. When I asked what number of flights, personnel and supplies were entering the area from the U.S., he said he didn't know. So, how can he oppose a travel ban on something that he doesn't even know the answer to?

But not to worry, Gardner continued:

I think we have to make sure that we're not — we're not frightening the American people. This is a very serious situation…

Without question, the outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in West Africa this year is a very serious public health crisis with impacts throughout the world. With that said, the nature of Ebola's communicability limits its ability to spread when properly dealt with by trained and well-equipped medical personnel. The ill-informed panic over Ebola that gripped the nation just weeks before the elections contributed to a climate of fear–that Republicans like Cory Gardner eagerly sought to exploit for electoral gain, even as they insisted they weren't.

Did Ebola scare tactics win the election for Cory Gardner? Not on their own, of course.

But Gardner willingness to go there speaks volumes–especially now that we know how wrong it was.


19 thoughts on “Politifact’s Lie of the Year: Cory Gardner’s Ebola Scare Tactics

  1. Ebola was a great campaign issue.  It was a continuation of the Dems are incompetent and don't care about you meme.  You guys are just jealous because it was effective.

        1. It's always a shock when they are this brazen about their fearmongering. This fucker is smart enough to know it was wrong, and he doesn't care. There is nothing worse in politics today now that Lee Atwater is dead.

    1. If Udall had won, we'd be pointing out the LAST lie of the year, Udall's lie that if we wanted to keep our health plans we could. That was a total lie and Udall never even tried to explain it.

      On the other hand, Gardner proposes a solution to protect Americans based on the best available information at the time, and gets attacked for it by sour grapes Dems.

      It's completely ridiculous. Colorado Pols just needs to get over the fact that Udall lost. It's over. Move on.

      1. It's scary – seriously – the way you relish, and the extent to which you will consistently go, performing the role of unabashed dimwit . . .

      2. Modster have you ever, ever, had an independent thought?  Thanks, but we know what rightie spin central will have to say on any given topic without you to parrot it for us. You could be replaced by the simplest program imaginable.  I always wonder why you're so gleeful whenever any of us disagree with each other, the Obama administration or any given Dem pol. It just proves we think while your comments don't even require sentience.

    2. Actually, we're appalled and disgusted that your party used lies and misinformation about the suffering and death of thousands of people as a "great campaign issue". I'd ask if you have no shame, but that answer is obvious. 

      Time got it right. The Ebola fighters are the people of the year.

  2. MamaJ you're right about TIME, but that the GOP "used lies and misinformation as a great campaign tactic" is simply business as usual. They do the best they can with what little they've got.

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