Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"Compassionate Conservative" Media Resorts To Distortions and Dubious Claims to Make "Pro-Life" Argument in Schiavo Case

When it comes to the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, most Americans are being presented with a basic set of facts, and as a result are coming to a motley of conclusions.

But as documented by a number of media criticism sites, including mediamatters.org and dailyhowler.com, the conservative noise machine is offering a second set of "facts," a combination of misinformation and dubious claims that are designed to lead conservative viewers or listeners to a single conclusion -- which coincidentally matches the views of conservative leaders in government.

Let's look at these alternate universes:

Mainstream Media: Terri Schiavo, whose husband said she had bulimia, suffered severe brain damage after a potassium imbalance caused a heart attack in 1990. Because of oxygen deprivation in the minutes that passed before she received care, she entered a vegetative state, in which she has remained for 15 years.

Conservative Media: Terri Schiavo isn’t in a persistent vegetative state. With treatment, she could make significant progress. The problem is her husband, Michael Schiavo, and the "liberal" Florida Circuit Judge, George Greer.

Dr. William Hammesfahr, interviewed on the March 21 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, said: "She actually responds to people in different ways. When I went in initially, she acknowledged my presence and then ignored me, as she ignored her husband and she also ignored the videographer."

Hammesfahr has been making this contention for several years, yet in court testimony, Hammesfahr has failed to back up his statements with facts.

According to a 2003 article in the St. Petersburg Times, video supplied to Judge Greer showed Hammesfahr giving Schiavo 105 commands and 61 questions. The court reported it saw few responses to those commands and questions, and could not determine whether Schiavo's responses were more than random motions. Viewers were not told about the court's ruling on Hammesfahr's testimony.

On Scarborough Country, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes and Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, Hammesfahr was touted as a "Noble Prize nominee," but viewers were not told that Hammesfahr's nomination consisted of a letter written by his congressman, Mike Bilirakis (R-FL), who is ineligible to make such a nomination, according to rules established by the Stockholm-based Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.

Television viewers also were not told by the various conservative broadcasters that in February 2003, the Florida Board of Medicine ruled Hammesfahr violated state law by charging a patient for services that were not provided. It also ruled that Hammesfahr's treatment of stroke patients, using a procedure he has claimed could help Terri Schiavo, was "not within the generally accepted standard of care."

Meanwhile, Fox News and CNN each aired interviews with Carla Sauer Iyer, a one-time nurse for Schiavo. Iyer has maintained that Schiavo was constantly "alert and oriented" while under her care, "saying such things as 'mommy,' and 'help me.' "

But Fox News and CNN viewers were not told that Iyer's claims had been labeled "incredible" by the courts, unsupported by any evidence. As further proof of Iyer's lack of credibility, her testimony was not sought by Schiavo's parents.

As Greer stated in a 2003 decision: "Ms. Iyer details what amounts to a 15-month cover-up which would include the staff of Palm Garden of Lago Convalescent Center, the Guardian of the Person, the Guardian ad Litem, the medical professionals, the police and, believe it or not, (Schiavo's parents)."


The conservative media has pinned much of the blame on Greer, but viewers and listeners of such shows are not told that seven courts and 19 judges -- a mix of Democrat and Republican appointees -- have come to the same conclusion about Schiavo's status as vegetative.

The conservative media has tried to make this a Republican "pro-life" vs. Democrat "pro-death" issue, but viewers are not told that the Senate unanimously passed legislation that requires a federal judge, upon the family's request, to launch a new inquiry into the legal and medical questions surrounding Schiavo. In the House, Democrats were essentially split -- 47 siding with the GOP, 58 voting against.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), voted for the Senate version and said he favors an even broader bill that would protect all persons in Schiavo's condition. He said he wants the Senate "to fashion some kind of legislation that will give people of disabilities the ability to take one last look at their case before the plug is pulled."

But the version of the bill passed by Congress only related to Schiavo, because the conservatives controlling Congress -- as a memo circulated among them says -- are more interested in scoring political points in the 2006 mid-term elections than passing broad legislation to help people like Schiavo. In fact, as reported by JABBS (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/03/compassionate-conservative-politics_21.html), the conservatives in Congress have fought for measures that, if in place before 1990, would have made it near impossible for Schiavo to receive the care she has.

That's another set of "facts" not told to viewers and listeners of the conservative media.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we going to look at every malpractice action brought against every doctor involved in this? Just checking, since by your standards, not following the standard of care (a very nebulous concept to begin with) in one case, disqualifies his opinions in another.

Is it relevant that the judge chose to believe the testimony of a doctor with ties to the euthenasia community?

I do not know where I fall on this issue, but I do know that each side has distorted this issue for political gain, so to imply that only one side is doing so is the pinnacle of intellectual dishonesty.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

I'd love to see documentation of the judge's ties to the euthenasia community. I didn't even know there was a euthenasia community.

What JABBS is doing is not intellectual dishonest. What Hannity and Scarborough are doing -- presenting people as experts who have been discredited by their own court testimony -- is intellectually dishonest. What Bush is doing is politically dishonest.

It's amazing how people make the claim "liberals are just as bad," but never back up their statements with anything -- facts, links to documents, damning quotes, etc.

It's easy to say something, but JABBS has actually made the effort to provide back-up to his statements.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the above blogger is using hyperbole to defend (I'm assuming) Schiavo's parents.

the point isn't that the doctor interviewed on scarborough has a checkered background. the point is that he is making claims that he has not been able to defend in multiple court testimonies.

scarborough trots him out, claims he was a nobel prize nominee, etc., but scarborough can't possibly be so stupid as to not know that the doc's testimony was discredited for lack of evidence.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this entire affair is pathetic. the right is using this case to make their own case for public votes. anyone who cannot see that is blind. there are tons of cases like this - only the high profile case where they can score political points is where they focus.

I am not a liberal and often criticize the left on this blog but you have to call things as they are.

Delay and others are using this and it is sad and pathetic. And the attempt to legislate in this fashion is counter to everything this country's laws stand for. the right has partially succeeded in turning this into a question about life or death in the minds of the public(Patricia Heaton spouting off how she wouldnt starve her kid...stupid moron). Actually, this is a question about process.

Process has been followed--not once but over and over again--with the same results each time. She is in a vegetative state and the court was convinced that she had told her husband what she wanted. And her husband is guardian anyway. while i feel bad for the parents, as anyone would, they are just wrong here. but Delay and company want to change the rules for political purposes for this one case--makes me angry. The republicans are walking down a path recently that will result in them losing seats later on---assuming the dems can coherently take advantage of the situation.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous joe said...

I couldn't have said it any better than the above commenter.

I consider myself a centrist. Not a Democrat, necessarily, although I guess I side with them lately. What's sad about this debate is that the right is calling the shots, but also telling us what the left is thinking. That's ridiculous.

Judges appointed by left and right have come to the same conclusion, but because Greer is seen as a liberal, that gives talk radio and Scarborough and Hannity the right to say that Greer represents all Democrats? What a joke.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agrred. If you asked me which way i leaned up until the election, i would have said that i was a democrat who was leaning republican simply because i believed (still do) that the democratic party has been hijacked by the far left. and i couldnt stand the anti bush sentiment (not that i like him but i have never disliked anyone as much as every single democrat seems to dislike this guy)on every issue. i did not like kerry and thought his campaign was run horribly, and despite this blog and others attempt to portray it as blame on republican controlled media, i blame the loss on Kerry and his campaign. I watched everything and the dems did everything wrong , from the presidential nominee choice to the VP choice. Ok, old news.

Since then , the republicans have shown their colors in congress (actually not as upset with Bush although he likely has his hands in this) and are pushing a far right wing agenda and seem to have the power to do so. BUT, as the dems found out in 1994, ultimately the people have the choice. So, time is ticking on the republicans. Delay is a disaster and letting him run wild is a mistake.

The far left and far right in this country are, in my opinion, necessary "opposition parties" in their own right. Unfortunately, the current climate has the centrists (which makes up most of america) as the opposition party-not knowing who to turn to because there now seem to be deaf ears on both sides. This is an opportunity for the dems (because the republicans are power mad in congress)....they best take it. Until the centrists run the show, this country is in for a rough ride. Welcome to the world of Hannity, Garafolo, Sedar, Limbaugh....et al.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Your post itself contains a bit of misinformation that has constantly been trotted out to support the "liberal' side of the debate --that several courts and judges have made "findings of fact" on the Schiavo case. I believe only Greer has made findings of fact -- appellate courts don't do that and will only reverse findings of fact if there is evidence that the judge abused his discretion.

5:47 AM  

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