There’s a fair amount of public anxiety about the Ebola virus, and it’s important to have U.S. officials communicating clearly and effectively with the public so Americans understand the nature of the problem. That might ordinarily be the job of the U.S. Surgeon General, but as of now, we don’t actually have one.
As regular readers may recall, President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post nearly a year ago, and at first blush, this seemed like a no-brainer – Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications.
But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination. Senate Democrats could have confirmed him anyway, but red-state Dems got election-year jitters, which means. at least for now, Murthy has been temporarily derailed and the Surgeon General’s office is empty during a public-health scare.
It’s against this backdrop that Fox News’ Steve Doocy told his audience something interesting yesterday:
“You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics.”
Well, yes, I suppose that’s true, though it only tells part of the story – and it conveniently obscures Fox News’ role in trying to tear Murthy down during the confirmation process.
Ellie Sandmeyer explained yesterday:
Fox personalities repeatedly worked to cast doubt on Dr. Vivek Murthy’s nomination, questioning his strong qualifications and smearing him as “too political” for the job. In March, network host Brian Kilmeade alleged that Murthy “hasn’t done much in his career yet,” and argued that “you want to be impressed with” a Surgeon General nominee’s resume. […]In addition to questioning Murthy’s qualifications, Fox has also worked to baselessly politicize Murthy’s position that gun violence should be considered a public health issue. Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck falsely claimed that Murthy views gun ownership as a “disease” and forwarded claims that he has “a radical agenda when it comes to guns and your health.” Network legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. suggested Murthy would make the examining room about “about party registration or about gun registration,” and Fox host Megyn Kelly claimed that Murthy is “not a big fan of the Second Amendment,” and said he is “so anti-gun that the NRA has decided to score this vote.”
So when a Fox host complains that “politics” is leading to a vacancy in the Surgeon General’s office, the natural follow-up question is, “Yes, and exactly whose politics might be responsible for this result?”
As Rachel noted on the show last night, the public would benefit from having a qualified medical professional focused specifically on helping Americans better understand these complex medical questions. Too bad that’s apparently not a politically viable option right now.