The Tornoe Spin: Kevin Wade – Fear and Ebola

I’ll admit, I’m confused by the campaign of Republican Senate candidate Kevin Wade.

Going in, I assumed he was running against incumbent Democrat Chris Coons, but the more and more I hear from Wade, I’m pretty sure he’s decided his 2014 opponent is science. 

First, in a Senate debate on Oct. 19 at the University of Delaware, Wade trotted out the tried-and-wrong GOP platform that seeks to debunk climate change, noting that, “As an engineer who needs to professionally follow the science and data wherever it leads, I remain a very informed but very skeptical person in terms of man-made global warming driving the rise in sea level.”

Every Delawarean at this point is keenly aware of the effect climate change is having on our coastline. The scientific consensus that man is contributing to climate change is overwhelming (about 97 percent), and even the Weather Channel, with their denialist co-founder John Coleman, have released a statement that “climate of the earth is indeed warming,” and that humans are mostly to blame.

Science 1, Kevin Wade 0. 

Let’s move on to Ebola. As of Thursday morning, there is exactly one person who is being treated for the disease in the U.S. Just two people have contracted Ebola here, both health care workers who were treating an infected patient. Both are alive and well.

Despite all this, Wade is pressing the case as if Ebola were as deadly as, say… the flu. Visitors to his official campaign website are greeted with a video of a solemn looking Wade standing in front of a heartbeat monitor, warning voters, “Our nation is faced with the threat of Ebola.” There are six different spots Ebola is highlighted on his homepage alone, some preceded by red exclamation points! It’s that dangerous, folks.  

During the Senate debate on October 29 at Widener Law University, Wade dug in further, noting that as senator, he would support a ban on all travel from African countries that have been affected by Ebola. 

“The best way to prevent Ebola deaths in this country, to prevent the costs and disruption to our health service due to Ebola treatment is to temporarily suspend inbound traffic from passengers from the affected areas,” said Wade.

First of all, he’s wrong. Scientists (you know, the experts that are paid to let us know the facts) have repeated time and time again a travel ban would do more harm than good. The best way to protect Americans from contracting Ebola is to fight it in Africa, and a travel ban would act as a disincentive for heroic doctors and nurses to travel abroad to fight the deadly disease. 

Second, Wade’s Ebola rhetoric preys on the uneducated and uninformed by making them think it’s only a matter of time before they get the disease. “Ebola infects people with ease,” Wade wrote in a recent op-ed in the News Journal, which is simply false. Ebola is extremely infectious but not extremely contagious, and unlike diseases such as measles or influenza, the virus is not transmitted through the air. 

“If someone is returning from Sierra Leone, and has Ebola, but is not yet sick, I could sit right next to them on a plane and not be concerned,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Weather.com. “We see the risk as essentially zero.”

Exploiting fear

What Wade is doing is cynically exploiting the fear and uncertainty many Delawareans feel about the threat of the disease. It’s an election ploy, one many, many Republicans across the country are hitting hard, part of a general trend to try and elevate non-issues (ACORN, Benghazi, voter fraud, latte salutes) in order to get elected. 

Even at the end of the debate, when candidate choose from a basket of softball “politicians, they’re just like us” questions, Wade joked that his question was about Ebola. Get it, because he’s the only candidate hyping this non-issue into the Spanish flu epidemic? Funny. 

So since Wade is down in the polls, I’ve decided to help his campaign by coming up with a new campaign slogan that sums up his candidacy in a single issue: 

“Ebola, amiright? Wade 2014”

Next time (and there will be a next time, considering the sparse nature of the GOP bench in Delaware), Wade may want to run a campaign against a political opponent instead of the scientific community at a whole. Or just move to Mississippi. 

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Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe

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