All-Star Panel: The concern over Ebola in America

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: The plain truth, we can't make the risk zero until the outbreak is controlled in West Africa. What we can do is minimize that risk, as is being done now in Dallas, by working to ensure that there are no more individuals exposed.

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: Last night we placed orders on a family. There is nothing more important than keeping you safe. It was clear to me, a Democrat, and Governor Perry, a Republican, and everyone who looked at that information that the action and the CDC today, after we laid it out for them, that the actions that we took, while unusual, were appropriate.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Texas health officials there talking about an order that they placed on Thomas Duncan and his family, four members there, legally requiring them to stay indoors and not have any visitors until October 19 when the virus is said to finish its incubation period. This as the department of health there in Texas expanded the number of people who had contact with Duncan to 100.

Let's bring in our panel, syndicated columnist George Will, Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal, and Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend." Tucker, what do you make of all this?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, the idea that we're not going to get it under control until it's controlled in West Africa is not reassuring.  West Africa is a very disorderly place. That's going to be a long time. Ebola is not a threat to countries who practice basic hygiene for the moment. But it's a virus and viruses mutate, and if it went airborne it could devastate this country and the world.

The government tells us not to worry. This is the same government that until recently told us if you want to lose weight eat more carbs. So I think a little bit of paranoia is warranted and I think it may be time to rethink our immigration. Countries that have viruses whether they are physical or, by the way political, ought to be countries, you know, that you screen immigrants from really, really carefully. And we think that's somehow evidence of bias to do that, and we should rethink that.       


RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Look, I'm not a doctor, I'm not even a medical reporter.

BAIER: You don't play one on TV.

FOURNIER: Don't even play one on TV. But that's why I have to trust my government and that's why I have to trust the health care system. And unfortunately, right now, I think Tucker made the same suggestion, we really have lost faith in all our institutions. And the medical system in particular has given us reason to have doubt even in this particular incident. So if there was ever a time where we need to be able to keep our heads about us and trust the people leading us this would be the kind of incident that we should. But the problem is it's rather hard to do so.

BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's right. This is an episode when people want to trust the government and people need to trust the government, and, after the last 12 months, they can't. What was happening exactly 12 months ago? Government shutdown and the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov. Since then we have had intelligence failures regarding ISIS. We've had the debacle of the veterans handling of health care, and the Secret Service that couldn't lock the front door of the White House. So people think this is a gang who can't shoot straight.

This comes also in the context of the immigration debate, Tucker mentions it, where Americans have been pursuing for years the chimera, in my judgment, of a complete border that isn't at all porous at all to anyone. Well, we'll never get there. And we will never get there also to hermetically seal this country off from viruses.

So the question then becomes, how confident are we that we know the epidemiology of Ebola, that how it is transmitted, how fast it might mutate, something of that sort. And second, is it feasible to seal off West Africa, which is a very big place.

BAIER: Well, that brings up a tweet, Sheffield and Company at Bright Gift ideas tweets in "If infected people from Liberia are asymptomatic and they simply lie to get out, how can we stop them from coming here?"

CARLSON: Well, there are over 13,000 as of today American Visa holders in West African countries affected by the Ebola epidemic. So the short answer is we can't. It's -- I don't know if it would be physically feasible, as George suggested. I think it would be politically infeasible, impossible to do that. I mean our reflexive reaction to things like this as just not a government but a culture is don't discriminate against anybody on the basis of anything. And so I think it would be very hard for anybody to stand up and say, you know what, these people are infected. They are a threat to us. That person would be shouted down, I believe.

BAIER: This came up today. USA Today had a piece in 2010 talking about possible regulations that were being considered and proposed by the Bush administration. It said this in this article in 2010, "The Obama administration has quietly scrapped plans to enact sweeping new federal quarantine regulations that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted four years ago as critical to protecting Americans from dangerous diseases spread by travelers. The regulations proposed in 2005 during the Bush administration amid fears of avian flu would have given the federal government additional powers to detain sick airline passengers and those exposed to certain diseases. They also would have expanded requirements for airlines to report ill passengers to the CDC and mandated that airlines collect and maintain contact information for flyers in case they later needed to be traced as part of an investigation into an outbreak."

Ron, this never came up again. There was not another proposal. Obviously, people are looking back now and saying, you know, should we have that in place. The ACLU and the Airline Travelers Association all pushed back against this, and it went away.

FOURNIER: Well, we get back to the issue of trust again. Do we trust a government that is already impinging on our freedom and our civil liberties to know when to quarantine and when not to quarantine and who to crack down on and who not to crack down on? Do we trust our hospitals not to release somebody from the hospital who has Ebola, which has already happened this week? And do we trust one another? Do we trust our neighbors when their family member has got Ebola to stay in their house and stay in shelter, or do we have to quarantine them?

You know, it's this lack of trust that we have with each other, with our government, and with all of our institutions in a crisis like this, as you were suggesting, is really, really scary. That, to me, is, you know, one of the scariest things of our times is this lack of faith.

BAIER: Another Tweet the Panel, David [inaudible] this is not Charles Krauthammer, I'm told. But it says "President Obama stopped flights to Israel but won't stop flights from Ebola-infected areas says it all."  George?

WILL: Well, even stopping flights from Ebola infected areas wouldn't help because someone would know that and they would get on a flight in the infected area and fly to Mumbai or Milan or Rome and fly on. One can imagine in this dystopian future the ladies and gentlemen of the TSA at our airport security checkpoints randomly taking our temperatures. It won't work until you seal off West Africa, because once people are out of West Africa there is no way to prevent them from coming here.

BAIER: I want to address that quickly with this sound bite from Tom Frieden, director of CDC.


FRIEDEN: The approach of isolating a country is going to make it harder to get help into that country. It's going to make it harder to get people to respond because they are not going want to come out. They are not going to be able to come out if they go in. And because of that it will enable the disease to spread more widely there and, ultimately, potentially spread more to other countries in Africa and become more of a risk to us here.


WILL: Unintended effects. Exactly. This is why there are so many variables in this mess that the best we can do is hope.

BAIER: Last word?

CARLSON: This won't be the last virus to come out of West Africa at all. Wars give rise to this kind of thing. World War I gave rise to the influenza pandemic and the wars in West Africa will give rise to more than Ebola.

FOURNIER: We have to keep our heads about ourselves.

BAIER: Next up, President Obama tries to turn the page to the U.S. economy.

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