Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, was pressed on her criticism during a back-and-forth with Esquire's Charles P. Pierce. The exchange happened during a stop in Newton, Iowa on Monday.
"We have an apathetic president," Ernst said to a crowd, according to The Washington Post's Ben Terris. After her speech she said Obama "is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive."
Ernst added "with Ebola, he’s been very hands off." And that's where the back-and-forth started with Pierce, a sports-writer-turned-commentator media personality and who is the author of four books, including "Idiot America." With Ernst, he asked her what Obama should have done differently.
"What should he have done about Ebola?" Pierce said. "One person in America has Ebola."
"OK, you’re the press and you’re giving me your opinion," Ernst responded.
"It’s not an opinion, only one person in America has it," Pierce interjected.
Ernst spokesman Alex Conant said that Ernst was saying with the "opinion" line that Pierce had already made up his mind about the election.
"The part where she says "you're giving me your opinion", she means that clearly this reporter already made up his mind about the election," Ernst said in an email to TPM. "You should be able to tell that from her tone in the audio -- I believe it was clear to the other reporters that were there."
"Yes, but he is the leader, he is the leader of our nation," Ernst said. "So what he can do is make sure that all of these agencies are coordinating together, to make sure he is sharing with the American people he cares about them, he cares about their safety."
"You don’t think he does?" Pierce said.
"I don’t know that he does, he hasn’t demonstrated that," Ernst said.
"You don’t think he’s demonstrated that he cares about the American people?" Pierce said.
"He hasn’t," Ernst said. "I’m done. So anybody else?"
The TPM Polltracker finds Ernst leading Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee in the Iowa Senate race, by 1.8 percentage points.
Listen to the exchange of the audio below:
This post has been updated.