Obama's ‘Ebola Czar' has no medical background, and that catches Republicans' attention

Posted at 5:01 PM, Oct 17, 2014

After a week of intensifying concern in the United States about Ebola, the White House on Friday appointed a “czar” as response coordinator — and the pick for the post, Ron Klain, has also raised some eyebrows.

Here’s Klain’s professional experience:

Since 2011 he has been a practicing lawyer and partner at Washington lobbying firm O'Melveny & Myers. He is president of Case Holdings — where he will now take a leave of absence — which manages the assets of AOL Founder Steve Case.

Previously Klain served as chief of staff for both Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore, as well as former Attorney General Janet Reno. His connections to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration run deep.

But spot what’s missing? Yep, medical experience.

It’s that key skill, nowhere to be found on Klain’s resume, that is riling up a few conservative members of Congress.

Here’s a taste:

  • Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa, released a statement Friday calling the appointment “both shocking and frankly tone deaf.” Murphy chaired the House panel Thursday that grilled top Ebola players, including the Center for Disease Control’s Dr. Tom Freiden. His statement went on to say that “installing yet another political appointee who has no medical background or infectious disease control experience will do little to reassure Americans who are increasingly losing confidence with the Administration’s Ebola strategy.”
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce,  R-Calif., took Klain's lack of medical credentials as the biggest failure. In a statement he said, “Given the mounting failings in the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, it is right that the President has sought to task a single individual to coordinate its response. But I have to ask why the President didn’t pick an individual with a noteworthy infectious disease or public health background?"
  • Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz also spoke negatively of Obama’s decision, suggesting that a czar wasn’t the right answer, “We don't need another so-called 'czar'; we need presidential leadership. This is a public health crisis, and the answer isn't another White House political operative,” he said in a statement.


For weeks the president has been under pressure, largely from Republicans, to appoint someone to oversee the federal government's efforts to contain the virus. Whether a czar is the right route to go, especially one with no medical background, is yet to be determined.