The Obama administration has rejected calls for an "Ebola czar" to oversee the federal response to the spread of the disease, but cannot identify who is in charge of that response.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Earnest responded to questions regarding the government's response to the Ebola outbreak. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Previously, the administration has said President Barack Obama's homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, was the point person for coordinating the assorted agency responses. But on Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest did not want say she was in charge.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked, “Getting back to Lisa Monaco, you said she’s overseeing the response on Ebola.”
Earnest initially gave a "nitpicky" response.
“I hate to be nitpicky here. But she is coordinating the activities of all the government agencies who are themselves responsible for responding to specific areas of their own expertise," Earnest said.
Acosta followed, “Who’s in charge?”
Earnest said, “She’s not overseeing construction of Ebola transmission units in West Africa. The Department of Defense is responsible for that.”
Acosta pressed, “I understand that. Who’s in charge?”
Earnest then talked about what Monaco is not doing.
“She’s not responsible for coordinating activities of the international community as they interact with local government in West Africa,” Earnest said. “U.S. AID is involved in that effort. They have an area of expertise. She’s not diagnosing people in the field.”
Acosta said, “You keep interrupting me because you have a point to make. But you understand my question. You seem to be reluctant to say who is directly in charge of the federal response to Ebola.”
Earnest insisted he was stating “very clearly” who is responsible, talking again about the role of DOD and the U.S. AID, and then naming other agencies.
“We see [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] lending their expertise to West Africa to help local government mobilize the resources that they need to stop this outbreak,” Earnest said. “You’ve seen the Department of Homeland Security play their role in ensuring the safety of the American public as people are traveling across the globe attempting to enter this country. You have [Department of Health and Human Services] and CDC who are responsible for working with hospitals and doctors all across the country if they materialize at their medical facility.”
Acosta returned to his original point.
“There’s not one person in charge?”
Earnest gave his final clarification.
“There are individuals who are directly responsible for their line of responsibility and you have an individual here at the White House responsible for coordinating the actions of those government agencies to make sure they are properly integrated,” Earnest said. “I think that is a completely reasonable management structure.”
The explanation came as a second American health care worker was diagnosed with Ebola.
On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CNN , "I would say that we don't know exactly who's in charge. There has to be some kind of czar."
Other Republicans, such as Reps. Jack Kingston of Georgia and Frank Wolf of Virginia and Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rob Portman of Ohio, have also called for a czar or at least one person in charge.