Exploring Human Potential

Ebola Crisis Communications Out Of Control: Time Again For Tony Fauci

Posted on | October 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

Ashoka Mukpo, source/DailyMail UK

Mike Magee

With the announcement this morning that Nancy Snyderman and her Ebola infected free lance photographer, Ashoka Mukpo, are on their way back to the states from Liberia in a private corporate jet, fundamental questions about transmission of Ebola are being raised. The current situation rings the same crisis communication alarm bells that were ringing in 2003 during the SARS crisis (which included a widespread quarantine of Toronto for a time), or more specifically when then brand new HHS secretary, Tommy Thompson, decided he could handle the  face-to-face camera work for the Anthrax attack in 2001.

CDC director Tom Frieden should be concerned after watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning. On it Dr. Alexander van Tullekan, a British TV “performer doc” turned Senior Fellow from the International Institute of Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University, raised Joe and Mika’s ears  when he stated on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “We’re seeing people contract the disease, not only who have touched the people, but also who have been wearing hazmat suits, or at least personal protective gear, at least in some cases.”


Dr van Tullekin is the twin brother of Chris van Tulleken, a British Infectious Disease doctor and TV personalty, best known for his lead in the BBC series, “Operation Ouch”. Together the twins were a big hit in the British series, “Medicine Men Go Wild” described this way: “Two young British doctors explore the mysterious world of tribal medicine to discover whether traditional forms of healing have anything to teach us about bodies, health and curing illness.”

When government officials start getting scooped like this, as Thompson learned in 2001, it’s time to call in the reinforcements. Adding to the confusion, van Tullekin’s suggestion that CDC reassurances that Ebola is not easily transmissible may be incorrect was juxtaposed with 1) a loose dialogue by the morning coffee clutch about the Liberian plane traveler with Ebola currently hospitalized in Texas (Should people on the plane be worried and contacted?) and 2) Dr. Snyderman, (appearing somewhat pale and tired looking) performing an on-air, close quarters interview yesterday with a taxi driver who had just transported a hyper-infected pregnant Ebola patient to the local hospital.

Clearly, things are getting out of control. The story is now driving itself, as it once did with SARS and Anthrax. Veteran NIH ID crisis communicator, Tony Fauci, appeared on NBC Nightly News, 2 days ago. Introduced by Brian Williams as “Our nation’s ‘Go-To’ physician in Bethesda”, his ability to calmly deliver information without alarming the public once again was on full display.

Suggestion to the Obama Administration:

1. Assign all future government communications on Ebola to Dr. Fauci.

2. Ask Fordham University “What’s up?”

Suggestion for NBC:

1. Take care who you showcase as your “expert” in the middle of a serious health challenge.

2. While Nancy is quarantined for the next few weeks, consider the risk/benefit of close contact “Wild West” on-air interviews until we get a better handle on the behavior of this virus.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee


2 Responses to “Ebola Crisis Communications Out Of Control: Time Again For Tony Fauci”

  1. Nancy Menzel
    October 3rd, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

    I completely concur. Dr. Frieden appeared evasive on Today when he ducked answering Matt Lauer’s question about why it has taken a week to clean up and safely dispose of body fluids in the infected patient’s apartment. He gave some political non-answer on another subject.

  2. Mike Magee
    October 3rd, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Nancy.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons