The Dishonest Media - Part Five

A report from a media watchdog group says the national news media slanted its news coverage against Terri Schiavo and her parents' effort to prevent her starvation death. Big surprise, right?

Reporters for ABC, CBS and NBC "have attempted to debunk arguments made by her parents -- namely that some doctors believe she could be helped and that Mrs. Schiavo, a Catholic, would not want her feeding tube disconnected," according to a report by the media watchdog. It is a case where the media had already made up their collective minds and didn’t want to be confused with the facts. The media ignored the fact that before he was awarded the court settlement, Michael Schiavo claimed he would do everything he could to provide for her recovery. The media ignored the fact that during an interview on Larry King Live, when asked if he knew if Terri wanted to die, he said he didn’t know, but that is what he wanted. Larry King ignored the statement, but there we have it on record. The media ignored the fact that Michael Schiavo was living with another woman and had two children with her. The media ignored the fact he had everything to gain by her death: a legal marriage legitimizing his children, money intended but not used for Terri’s rehabilitation, and the certainty she would never regain her speech and tell what happened on that dreadful night when she “lost oxygen.”

What happened to investigative reporting? Rumors that Schiavo caused Terri’s condition were never investigated. According to family members, he had been physically abusive in the past, and she planned to leave him the next day. Physicians who testified in support of the family indicated attempted strangulation [by her husband] was more plausible as a cause for loss of oxygen in a healthy, 26-year-old woman than a heart attack. The alleged connection between Schiavo’s attorney, an ardent advocate for physician-assisted suicide and frequent guest speaker for the Hemlock Society, and his campaign contributions to the judge presiding over the hearings was never investigated. Why a person who was not dying was put into Hospice Care and kept there for 15 years was never investigated. No, the media moguls had already made up their minds and set about creating the news. Seeing an opportunity, they hastened to castigate the ‘bad’ Republicans for trying to influence the judicial process. This case raised suspicions and caused controversy around the world, yet the few unbiased reporters who did investigate and report their findings were drowned out by the mainstream media.

Analysts examined all 31 evening newscasts that aired from March 17, the date when Terri's feeding tube was removed, through March 21. The study found a majority (60%) of the news stories presented the legal debate between Schiavo and the Schindlers from Schiavo’s vantage point while only 40 percent showed it from the perspective of Terri's parents. The study found that none of the news stories examined whether or not Schiavo was acting in Terri's best interests, while all three networks ran stories criticizing the Schindlers and their doctors' statements that Terri's condition could be improved.

Based on all of the polls leading up to the forced starvation of Terri Schiavo, it would appear Americans had formed a consensus in favor of ending her life. In report after report after report, the mainstream media hammered into our heads that "a majority of Americans think Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should not be reinserted, and she should be allowed to die," and "by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case." But guess what? It turns out those poll questions were biased against Terri. Another big surprise, right? The questions posed by the ABC News poll, for example, portrayed her as having "no consciousness" and being on "life support," rather than an awake, responsive patient with a feeding tube -- which she was.

And now, Steven Ertelt at reports that a new Zogby poll with fairer questions shows the nation clearly supporting Terri and her parents and wanting to protect the lives of other disabled patients. In one instance, the Zogby poll found that if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed a preference for medical treatment as in Terri's case, 43% say "The law presumes that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube," while just 30% disagree.

The poll asked another question: "If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?" A whopping 79% said the patient should not have food and water taken away, while just 9% said yes. Respondents were asked, "When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place?" In response, 42% said it should remain in place, and only 18% said the feeding tube should be removed.

So, are you surprised the networks did not report this poll? They are not only not reporting the new poll, but are still reporting the previous biased polling results.

Euphemisms, weasel words, and downright lies were all over the place. The media said Terri was being “allowed to die” when she was really being “forced to die.” One expert told the New York Times that because Terri was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) she had no awareness of food so she was not being denied something she wanted. First of all, if she had no awareness of air, why not do the humane thing and smother her with a plastic bag over her head? Secondly, since no real tests (such as an MRI or PET) were performed, how was it determined she was in a PVS, especially when numerous doctors testified she could recover if she had treatment? Schiavo’s euthanasia lawyer stated, “I firmly believe in the right of individuals to make their own medical-treatment choices.” But, Terri, by default as a Catholic would not have made the choice to starve herself to death, and her friends confirm this position. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News made the pompous, asinine statement that Terri would feel no pain. He should have read medical reports describing what happens to people when food and water are withdrawn. He makes me shudder when he states he is Catholic. Father Pavone stated, “Morally speaking, she was murdered, and being with her at her bedside during her last hours, I saw the terror on her face and the agony of her death.” Who do you believe, O’Reilly or Father Pavone?

We can only believe that because our millions of prayers to save her life were not answered, ‘God’s will be done’ means that a greater good will come of this. Maybe this will be the impetus to reform our out-of-control judicial system, prod us to take care of our own living wills, and awaken us to the culture of death propagated by our mass media. At the very least, we have another saint in heaven to help us here on earth.

Jim Fritz





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