Are the Pauls Ebola Truthers?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during an event at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
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Over the weekend, I wrote a couple posts and engaged with various folks on Twitter about the emerging Ebola Truth Movement, the mix of various voices, mainly on the right, either questioning what we know about Ebola, suggesting that public health officials are hiding the truth or simply saying they won’t be patsies for the virology elite.

But is the far-right Paul clan (Ron and Rand) also Ebola Truther? Seems they might be.

First, I saw Joan Walsh mentioning this exclusive Rand Paul interview over at Breitbart in which Paul charges the Obama administration with downplaying the threat of Ebola and says he fears a “worldwide pandemic.”

“If it’s so hard to transmit why are doctors getting it with masks, gloves, boots and hats—the whole works?” Paul asked.

“Could we have a worldwide pandemic? The Spanish flu in 1918 killed 21 million people, the plague in the 14th century killed 25 million people; I’m not saying that’s going to happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think we should have travel restrictions at this point in time coming from Africa,” Paul added.

It is notable that the flu is an airborne contagion and Ebola is not. But Paul’s not the only one hinting about this. Various right-wing pundits have also raised the question of whether epidemiologists really know what airborne means. In fact, Paul’s status as at least Ebola Truther-curious, if not necessarily full-blown Ebola Truther, seems tied to a series of articles and interviews raising doubts on this point.

Fox News host Greg Jarrett on Friday published a column attacking the ‘canard’ that Ebola is not an airborne contagion.

Which brings up another canard upon which the White House relies: transmission. We are assured that Ebola is spread by direct contact with blood, mucus, saliva and other bodily fluids from an infected person. As if that’ssupposed to make us feel safer. We’re told it cannot be transmitted through the air. Seriously? Think about that. Let’s say an infected passenger gets past screening and begins coughing, which is the body’s natural mechanism to evacuate the lungs. Any scientist will tell you that when someone coughs, microscopic droplets of saliva are projected from the mouth and into the air a distance of 7 to 12 feet. It is often invisible to the naked eye, but it can be inhaled by others and enter their respiratory tract or otherwise be ingested. It can also land on surfaces. This is how the influenza virus is often transmitted and spreads. Why not the Ebola virus?

So how does Ron Paul come into this? And where does all this stuff about Ebola being an airborne disease come from?

Well, admittedly the path is circuitous. But here goes.

Over the weekend, as I was surveying emerging voices in the Ebola Truth Movement, I saw repeated references to statement released on Friday by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons which casts doubt on claims that Ebola is not an airborne disease. Indeed, the statement from AAPS chief Jane Orient, MD seemed very similar to Jarrett’s argument.

The AAPS statement sounded different from everything I’ve seen from actual doctors and epidemiologists as opposed to pundits and scared people on Twitter. So I looked them up. And it turns out the AAPS is a conspiracy theory group founded in 1943 “to fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.”

They’ve been around ever since opposing Social Security, Medicare and various other government programs. And they cropped up again as a player in the Tea Party-infused opposition to Obamacare in 2009-10. But they were on to Obama much earlier. Like in 2008 when they suggested that President Obama was not simply a gifted orator but actually “deliberately using the techniques of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), a covert form of hypnosis developed by Milton Erickson, M.D.?”

The group’s journal has also claimed that humans have not contributed to climate change, that HIV does not cause AIDS, that abortion causes breast cancer, that undocumented immigrants are flooding the US with leprosy and various other claims that are either discredited within the actual medical community, based on conspiracy theories or simply insane. Some of the group’s greatest hits are assembled here on their Wikipedia page.

After reading up on the AAPS I decided my newfound mortal fear of Ebola as an airborne disease was likely not warranted and that the group was made up of far-right cranks and conspiracy theorists. But guess who’s a member? Ron Paul. And not just Ron Paul, GOP Rep. Paul Broun is too.

So is Dr. David McKalip, the anti-Obama activist who got in trouble back in 2009 for circulating the image of President Obama dressed as a witch doctor in a loin cloth and a tribal nose ornament.

And wait … so is Sen. Rand Paul!

Yes, Rand Paul is also a member of the AAPS! In fact, the year before running for senate at their annual conference. “I use a lot of AAPS literature when I talk,” he told the group in his speech.

(Remember, Ran Paul elected to found his own ophthalmology board to certify him rather than seek certification from the group that certifies all the country’s real eye doctors.)

So Rand Paul, Ron Paul Greg Jarrett, Jane Orient. Is the AAPS the source of right-leaning Ebola Truth Movement or only the part about it being an airborne disease?

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