Ebola Travel Ban Becomes Divisive Issue in Franken/McFadden Race


A year ago, who would've thought Ebola, of all things, would emerge as a central issue in Al Franken's reelection bid?

It has. During a WCCO TV debate yesterday, Franken and his Republican challenger, Mike McFadden, spent over seven minutes going back and forth about what the appropriate response to the virus is.

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McFadden, like most Republican U.S. Senate candidates, supports a temporary travel ban from West African countries affected by Ebola. Franken, meanwhile, said he has "nothing against" a ban, but added that implementing one is "insufficient" because most people get to the U.S. from West Africa indirectly anyway.

Franken's stance reflects the prevailing wisdom among public health experts, including Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who argues travel to and from West Africa is necessarily in order for the outbreak to be contained at its source.

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"If you're prepared today to give us hundreds of military planes that will fly in and out at will when we need them to move not only material but people, then I'll say, 'Maybe we ought to reconsider this,'" Osterholm told the Washington Times. "But I don't see anyone in Congress telling us today that we're going to get hundreds of military planes."

During yesterday's debate, McFadden was pressed about the fact that the travel ban he supports isn't backed by public health experts.

"I think a travel ban is common sense," he said. "That we have a way to prevent people that have the potential to have Ebola from coming into our country."

Here's video of that part of yesterday's debate:

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.