Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Compassionate Conservative" Media Suggests Michael Schiavo is Fighting His Entire Family. The Facts Say Otherwise

For the "conservative media," it's an easy sell.

The message they have been spreading: Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, speaks only for himself. The rest of Terri Schiavo's family speaks on her behalf.

Radio's Michael Savage has repeatedly said over the last few days that in his mind, it's "four against one" -- the one being Michael Schiavo. Mark Simone, filling in for radio clown Mark Levin, echoed that sentiment on March 23, pitting Michael Schiavo as being the lone family advocating removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Bill O'Reilly, on the March 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, challenged the conclusion that removing the feeding tube would have been Terri Schiavo's choice, claiming the state's action was based on "the word of one man."

It's an easy sell, but it isn't true. It is a simple storyline that angers good-hearted Americans left and right, causing them to telephone emotional and heartfelt words to radio hosts and post blog items galore. "How dare he," they say, to the conservative media's glee.

***

Attorney Michael Gross, speaking to O'Reilly on March 22, said: "It wasn't the word of one man. You haven't read the trial transcript. There were many, many witnesses. And 11 courts, including six federal courts, reviewed the procedure and found the process was fair."

O'Reilly blustered away telling Gross he was wrong. But in fact, Gross was right.

In 2000, Michael Schiavo, brother Scott Schiavo and sister-in-law Joan Schiavo each provided testimony to Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, which was found "clear and convincing evidence" that the decision to disconnect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was consistent with her wishes.

Greer wrote of the testimony:

Michael Schiavo testified as to a few discussions he had with his wife concerning life support. The Guardian Ad Litem felt that this testimony standing alone would not rise to clear and convincing evidence of her intent. ... The court has reviewed the testimony of Scott Schiavo and Joan Schiavo and finds nothing contained therein to be unreliable. ... Statements (Terri Schiavo) made in the presence of Scott Schiavo at the funeral luncheon for his grandmother that "if I ever go like that just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine." ... and to Joan Schiavo following a television movie in which a man following an accident was in a coma to the effect that she wanted it stated in her will that she would want the tubes and everything taken out if that ever happened to her are likewise reflective of this intent. The court specifically finds that these statements are Terri Schiavo's oral declarations concerning her intention as to what she would want done under the present circumstances and the testimony regarding such oral declarations is reliable, is creditable and rises to the level of clear and convincing evidence to this court.

***

The Terri Schiavo tragedy is a complicated, emotional story. It's difficult for most Americans to watch the short video clips of Schiavo, her eyes open and seemingly smiling, and wonder whether she is in fact in a vegetative state. It's difficult for most Americans to put themselves in the place of Michael Schiavo, or Terri Schiavo's parents, and wonder what they would do.

It's unfortunate that the "conservative media" doesn't seem capable of understanding and presenting the story's many facets. The "conservative media" seems so set on being angry, that it is willing to ignore or distort facts. It understands what's at play when discussing Terri Schiavo, and, perhaps in the quest for better ratings, it is willing to sacrifice the truth in exchange for ratcheting up the emotional volume.

But facts are facts. There's a reason that seven courts and 19 judges -- a mix of Democrat and Republican appointees -- have come to the same conclusion. Would you or I come to the same conclusion given the same set of facts? That's impossible to know.

But what the "conservative media" is doing -- conveniently skipping over facts to strengthen their arguments -- isn't going to help Terri Schiavo, either.

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