A 'Kelly File' investigation: Ebola in America

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," October 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, with Ebola scare popping up across the country and concern growing over the risk of a deadly outbreak, the White House is addressing the crisis by putting a political operative in charge of life and death decision making.

Welcome to "The Kelly File" special, "Ebola in America" hosted by an anchor who's suffering just a cold.

What started as a distant health threat in West Africa has just in a matter of days become the newest crisis to lead the administration reeling and Americans wondering about the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe. It was only a few weeks ago President Obama promised when it comes to Ebola we have little to worry about here.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.


KELLY: But one infected patient did manage to fly to the United States, clearing checks at two airports and finally winding up at a Texas hospital where more than 70 health care workers came in contact with him before he died. Not to worry, we were told.


OBAMA: The CDC's familiar with dealing with infectious diseases and viruses like this. We know what has to be done. And we've got the medical infrastructure to do it.


KELLY: Well, the CDC may have known what had to be done, but the nurses on the front lines say they did not. Nurse Nina Pham was diagnosed within days of Mr. Duncan's death, and the CDC told us this.


THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: We're concerned and would unfortunately not be surprised if we did see additional cases in the health care workers who also provided care to the index patient.


KELLY: Not 12 hours laterm Nurse Amber Vincent was the next confirmed case. And what's worse is she may have been exposed or she many have exposed hundreds more by flying cross country after officials told her it was OK.


FRIEDEN: The second health care worker reported no symptoms and no fever. However, because at that point she was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola, she should not have traveled on a commercial airline.


KELLY: Tonight, we take an exclusive tour of the very airplane this nurse flew on. Look at this. And we will learn more about who else may have been exposed and how. And we'll check in on those infected nurses. We'll also answer the question of how Nina Pham looked so healthy as recently as Thursday. And we'll ask an expert just how deadly is this virus.

But the biggest recent development may not be medical, it may be political. After failing to stop this virus from coming, failing to protect the first health care workers, failing to contain the chain of exposure and failing to get behind a travel ban to halt new cases, the Obama administration decided it needed someone new in charge.

So it tapped this man, Ron Klain. Mr. Klain is not a doctor, unless you count jurist doctor -- he's a lawyer not an MD. He doesn't work with the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institute of Health or even the Department of Health. He didn't study health policy, he doesn't know infectious diseases and he is described as, quote, "An American lawyer and political operative best known for serving for chief of staff for two Democratic vice presidents, Al Gore and Joe Biden."

Here is the White House defending the president's pick.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does Ron Klain know about Ebola?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the thing that's -- let's talk about -- let me restate why this person -- why the president believes it was important to add this person to his team.

What we were looking for is not an Ebola expert but rather an implementation expert.


KELLY: Joining me now, Chris Stirewalt.

As you would say, Chris, it's complicated.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Well, that will just make you feel real good, wouldn't it? Let me restate your question and to one I can answer is basically was the response from Josh Earnest there. And we've heard this decision described as bizarre. We've heard it described as all kinds of things. It's incomprehensible. Why would you have this person do this? It's not incomprehensible here. It's not incomprehensible to people who've watch this administration, which is this.  They don't have an Ebola problem, they have a political problem about Ebola.

Therefore, it makes sense that you would have a political fixer, which is what Ron Klain is. That's who he is. He's not famous for being Joe Biden's chief of staff. Because that's not exactly the A-number-one job in Washington. The thing he's famous for is that in 2000 he tried to save the election for Al Gore down in Florida. And I can promise you this, counselor, if Kevin Spacey has played you in the movie, you are not the guy who is going to be Dr. Kildare. You are there to fix a political problem.  And that's what Ron Klain's there to do.

KELLY: I mean, is it a little on the nose? Like we've seen the administration go full political before in response to a crisis. But maybe there'd be a little window dressing? Maybe he'd at least have an MD, he'll maybe did a stint at the CDC or some place. But this is so obvious that this is a political choice.

STIREWALT: But look, if you wait at this, it's the same in many ways as with what's going on with the Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.  Which was, "we've got this under control, you people are overreacting, you're overreacting, you're overacting," until the political pressure becomes too great and then you say, "What can we do to shut them up? What can we do to keep the critics to be quiet? How do we respond to this in a way that is going to be OK?" Because in this case they believe what they're saying.  What they believe is, "Look, things didn't work out so great. Somebody with Ebola did come into the country. And the contagion occurred and people flew around and got on cruise ships, for goodness sakes."

KELLY: Right.

STIREWALT: They've said that. But they still think it's going to be OK. So, what they want to do is create contain contagion control for political damage. And that's what Ron Klain needed to do.

KELLY: All right. So, maybe that is its expertise. But my question to you is, here's an unelected official, yet another czar, does this guy get a budget? Does this Democratic political operative get a budget of our money?

STIREWALT: No, what he gets is, the power of the president to enforce within the administration whatever the party line is, because you know what's about to happen. You know, pretty soon what's going to start happening is that people are going to come forward, career civil servants, people who are experts are going to come forward and say, "This was a botch, I can't believe they did it." They're going to start wanting to come on your show, they're going to want to start going writing books and talking to newspapers. And Ron Klain is there to enforce loyalty for any administration is important, for this administration it is crazy important.  It is the most important thing especially at a time like this. It's not about what your degree is, it's about how good are you at enforcing loyalty and keeping everybody on message so this does not turn into an utter disaster.

KELLY: I mean, is this the equivalent of putting Rahm Emanuel in there to run this show? What powers does he have? Because this guy obviously he wants to do one thing and that is please Democrats, in particular one democrat. And spent his life in politics. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is somewhat of an odd choice to be our Ebola czar.

I mean, I wonder if I had Ron Klain on this show if I asked him, is there any cure for Ebola? What are the experimental techniques? Whether he could answer any of these questions. What causes Ebola? Is it a virus or is it a bacteria? I bet he couldn't answer any of this stuff and yet he's going to oversee the response.

So, the question I have for you is what responsibilities is he going to get? Because now we have the heavy hitter political operator overseeing a very important matter in the country.

STIREWALT: The responsibility that he's going to get is going to be like an adjunct chief of staff in the White House, to call meetings, to apply pressure, to make sure that people know what the consequences to going off the reservation are going to be. He's there to make sure that people say and do the things that they're supposed to say and do and that he'll snitch to the president and tell other people if they're not doing the right things.

He's an early warning system for leakers. He's an early warning system for people who are going to buck the party line and say there's a problem here. That's what he's there for. He doesn't need to know anything about Ebola. He just needs to know about Obama.

KELLY: Well, I feel better. I don't know about you. Chris, good to see you.



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