New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared on the "Today" show Tuesday morning to push back against criticism of his decision to quarantine a nurse who returned from treating Ebola patients. Taking a combative and aggressive tone, Christie insisted it was the CDC who erred and that his quarantine of a nurse was necessary to protect the people of his state.
“We’re not moving an inch,” Christie said. "Our policy hasn’t changed, and our policy will not change."
With the approaching midterms, the "Today" show’s Matt Lauer called on Christie to say there was no political blame to be assessed in the discussion about Ebola. “I’m not here to discuss political blame,” Christie said, then added that Democratic governors are also enacting quarantine protocols, calling their moves “nonpartisan.”
Christie's team isn't unaware of what widespread national criticism can do to his presidential ambitions, which took a blow after it was revealed members of his administration aided in closing lanes to a bridge, wreaking havoc on traffic, as part of a political dispute. Speaking from Maryland, where he is campaigning for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Christie's appearance Tuesday morning was a swift effort to minimize fallout from the quarantine in public opinion.
Last week, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that they would be quarantining health care workers entering their states who had contact with Ebola patients. Within hours, nurse Kaci Hickox entered Newark Liberty International Airport and registered an initial reading of a fever, which she attributed to the use of a forehead reader while being nervous and flush.
After being taken to the hospital, she registered no fever and had a negative Ebola test. But she waited three more days to be released from the tent she where she was being held, during which time she publicly criticized her treatment as “inhumane.” She was released on Monday after a second negative Ebola test.
But Christie defended his policy, saying that when Hickox, who was ultimately headed to Maine, arrived at the airport she was symptomatic. “If she had never presented with any symptoms, our policy would have been to send her back to Maine and quarantine back in Maine,” Christie said.
Christie argued that the newest CDC standards are virtually identical to his policy, saying the federal health agency is slowly catching up to his protocols. “[The CDC] is responding in a really hyperbolic way because they’ve been wrong before, and now they’re incrementally taking steps,” Christie said.
But Lauer pressed Christie, reading criticism from federal health officials and asking the governor if he was going to be on the right side of public opinion and the wrong side of science. “I’m going to be on the right side of both, ultimately, Matt,” Christie said.