Could President Obama be backtracking on his opposition to a travel ban? Thursday night offered the first sign of a possible shift on the issue in the effort to combat Ebola.
Obama told the press pool in the Oval Office that while he doesn’t “have a philosophical objection” to a travel ban, he still believes a travel ban to West Africa is “less effective” than measures the administration is currently instituting.
“I want to make sure that everybody’s clear about the issue. I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe,” said Obama.
“The problem is, in all the discussions I’ve had thus far with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting, that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa,” he said. “If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we’ve put in place now, history shows that there’s a likelihood of increased avoidance.”
“If they come back to me and they say there’s some additional things we need to do, I assure you, we will do it. But it’s important in the circumstances, for us to look at the history of how these infectious diseases are best dealt with, and it’s currently the judgment of all those involved that a flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go,” Obama added.
The president’s statement stands in contrast to White House spokesman Josh Earnest’s yesterday. Earnest told ABC News’ Jon Karl that a travel ban was “not on the table at this point.” (RELATED: White House On West Africa Travel Ban: ‘Not On The Table At This Point’)
“The reason for that just in case people haven’t heard the previous answer I’ve given to this…shutting down travel to that area of the world would prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region,” said the White House flack.
“The only way for us to stop this outbreak and to eliminate any risk from Ebola to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source,” Earnest said. “We are mobilizing significant resources to make sure that supplies and personnel can get to the affected region, and start meeting the needs of the effective regions so we can stop the outbreak.”