POLITICS
10/02/2014 05:59 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2014

GOP Lawmakers Continue To Stoke Ebola Fears

With fears running high after the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the U.S., Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) are doing their part to keep Americans scared. Both lawmakers said this week that the 3,000 troops President Barack Obama is sending to West Africa to fight the virus will return infected and spread Ebola at home.

"You also have to be concerned about 3,000 soldiers getting back on a ship," Paul said in a Wednesday interview with radio host Laura Ingraham. "Where is disease most transmittable? When you're in a very close confines on a ship -- we all know about cruises and how they get these diarrhea viruses that are transmitted very easily. Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?"

“I think because of political correctness we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions on this," he added.

Paul, who is a likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, went on to say that the Obama administration had downplayed the risk of sending U.S. military personnel to Ebola-infected areas.

Gohmert echoed some of Paul's sentiments on Thursday, telling Lou Dobbs of Fox News that political correctness was behind Obama's decision to dispatch "3,000 military into where they can get Ebola that they can bring back."

"The military is not trained to go catch Ebola and die. They're trained to go in and kill the people that want to come back and kill us," Gohmert said. "The president’s priorities are all mixed up here. All you got to do is shut down traffic in and out of places where there’s high risk of Ebola.”

Few members of Congress voiced any disagreement in mid-September when the White House first announced plans to send troops to combat the Ebola virus. Even Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) endorsed the decision, offering rare praise for the president.

"What the administration's doing is correct," McConnell said at the time.

The White House chose to involve the military under pressure from humanitarian organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, that were struggling to contain the pandemic. While some argue that sending troops is an unconventional or even misguided approach to a global health crisis, the administration maintains that countering Ebola is a "top national security priority."

However, experts say fears about Ebola in the United States are overblown. The illness can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of people who have been infected. That's why the virus doesn't pose a large-scale health threat to the U.S. population, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Gohmert and Paul aren't the first Republicans to suggest questionable ways that the disease could infiltrate the United States. In August, a group of GOP representatives sent a letter to Obama suggesting that immigrant children at the nation's southern border were infected with Ebola. Other Republican lawmakers have made similar comments, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.).

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