Friday, April 01, 2005

Summing Up Schiavo Tragedy, Scarborough Contradicts Himself Trying To Indict "Liberal Elite"

Joe Scarborough hates what he sees as the liberal "elite." Unfortunately, he often doesn't back up his vitriol with actual facts.

In his March 31 Congressman Joe blog item on (posted at 2:51 p.m., after Schiavo had died), the right-wing pundit and host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country tries to show how the "elite" used the Terri Schiavo tragedy to "target" conservative Christians.

"Editorial pages have been filled with thinly disguised vitriol from opinion leaders who always seem to conclude that the decline of American culture began when pesky Christians began organizing themselves politically in 1980," Scarborough writes, but then fails to offer a single example.

In fact, Scarborough contradicts himself, citing Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, "and other old-time liberals like Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (who) have all come to Terri Schiavo's defense."

Wow, what an argument. Slap a catchy lead sentence about the liberal "elite" you disagree with, then spend the rest of your column pointing out all the liberals who agree with you. I wonder how confused the conservative readers in Scarborough Country were after reading this drivel.

(Note: Saying "Terri Schiavo's defense" is a conservative sleight of hand. If you believe Schiavo's husband, Michael, then you'd conclude that those who wanted to reinsert the feeding tube were not coming to Terri Schiavo's defense. What conservatives should say is "the defense of Terri Schiavo's parents," but saying the truth doesn't bring the same level of sympathy.)


Journalists are supposed to work with facts. In theory, so should pundits. Have an opinion, but base your opinion on the facts.

Scarborough doesn't work that way, though. In "reporting" on Terri Schiavo, Scarborough preferred an alternate set of facts -- one that allowed him to use conjecture over medical evidence, all in his quest to help prove that the "liberal elite" wanted Terri Schiavo to die because it hates George W. Bush. In Scarborough Country, Terri Schiavo may not have been in a persistent vegetative state. Forget what all those neurologists who tested her or treated her said, Scarborough was bound to find a doctor somewhere who said he could help Schiavo recover.

So, those of us in the fact-based universe couldn't help but feel a little satisfaction when Scarborough (and MSNBC reporter Lisa Daniels) were torn to shreds on the March 28 Scarborough Country by Dr. Ronald Cranford, one of the two neurologists selected by Michael Schiavo to examine Terri Schiavo pursuant to an October 2001 appellate court mandate.

Here's a bit of that interview*:

DANIELS: Are you 100 percent correct in your opinion that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state? Do you agree with that?

CRANFORD: I am 105 percent sure she is in a vegetative state. And the autopsy will show severe irreversible brain damage to the higher centers, yes.

DANIELS: Why are you so sure, Doctor?

CRANFORD: Because I examined her. The court-appointed guardian examined her. Four neurologists at the hospital where she was has said she's carried a diagnosis of vegetative state for 12 years. Every neurologist that examined her, except for Dr. [William] Hammesfahr [a neurologist selected by Terri Schiavo's parents], who is a charlatan, has said she is in vegetative state. That's what the court found. Just because you don't like --


DANIELS: Doctor, was a CAT scan -- Doctor, your critics would ask you, was a CAT scan used? Was an MRI taken? Were any of these tests taken?

CRANFORD: You don't know the answer to that? The CAT scan was done in 1996, 2002. We spent a lot of time in court showing the irreversible -- you don't have copies of those CAT scans? How can you say that?

The CAT scans are out there, distributed to other people. You have got to look at the facts. The CAT scan is out there. It shows severe atrophy of the brain. The autopsy is going to show severe atrophy of the brain. And you're asking me if a CAT scan was done? How could you possibly be so stupid?

SCARBOROUGH: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a second.


SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second, if I can interrupt here.

CRANFORD: Go ahead. Joe, interrupt me.

SCARBOROUGH: Why don't you go ahead and tell the rest of the story there? Why don't you tell us that the radiologist that looked at the two CAT scans said she showed improvement in 2002 over 1996? You know, you seem so sure of yourself. The Associated Press reported yesterday --

CRANFORD: Joe, the judge didn't believe him.

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. You're so sure of yourself -- respond to this. AP had a report yesterday. They said seven doctors have looked at her. Four said she was in persistent vegetative state. You were one of them, hired by Michael Schiavo to do that. There were three others that looked at her that disagreed. How can you be so absolutely sure that everybody that agrees with you is 100 percent accurate and everybody on the other side is a charlatan?

CRANFORD: Joe, Judge -- Judge [George W.] Greer disallowed, didn't believe what [Dr. William] Maxfield [a doctor selected by Terri Schiavo's parents] said. You got your numbers wrong. There were eight neurologists saw her. Seven of the eight said she was in a vegetative state. Only one said she wasn't.

SCARBOROUGH: I am quoting an Associated Press report from yesterday.

CRANFORD: Joe, you've got to get your facts straight.

SCARBOROUGH: I have got my facts straight.

CRANFORD: Get your facts straight. You've got your facts way off.

SCARBOROUGH: Why don't we talk about -- hold on a second.

CRANFORD: Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: You talked about a 1996 scan.

CRANFORD: No, 2002, 2002.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's talk about it. A radiologist told the court that the 2002 scan actually showed improvement over the 1996 scan. Is that inaccurate? Did the AP report that wrong?

CRANFORD: Absolutely. Maxfield said it was improved. And Judge Greer didn't buy it because the others said it wasn't improved. It was probably worse than it was before.

SCARBOROUGH: Is he a charlatan also?

CRANFORD: Yes. Maxfield is an HBO [hyperbaric oxygen], vasodilator -- look it up, Joe. See what vasodilator does. See what hyperbaric oxygen, see in these cases, and you tell me they are not charlatans. Just because you don't agree with me -- I don't call everybody a charlatan. I'm not calling [Dr. Richard] Cheshire [who has argued that Terri Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state] a charlatan. I think he's a reputable neurologist. I think he examined her, he interviewed her. So, just because I disagree, I don't call them charlatans. But you have got your facts so far off that it's unbelievable, Joe. You don't have any idea what you are talking about. You've never been at the bedside of these patients. And this will come out in the next three to five years about this condition and starvation.

* Thanks to for the transcript.


Anonymous JATS said...

This is a message from JATS: Journalists Against Terri Schiavo Stories. Being such, I want to call everyone's attention to a great article on page A4 of the Wall Street Journal yesterday (3/31/05) that details how Bush plans to divert funding for the Victim Rights Fund. Turns out he's decided to take the $1 billion the fund has right now and use it to help cut the budget deficit. Nice guy, huh. The fund was created by Congress back in 1984. It's funded by fines, forfeitures and fees levied against federal criminal offenders, not from general tax revenue. More than 4,400 agencies and groups are helped via the fund, which is used for such things as domestic violence shelters and programs to help crime victims and their families. For a Blog that prides itself in being "Against Bush's Bullshit," you'd think it would have seen the pile crap Bush and his conservatives cronies were making over the Shiavo case from a mile away. Guess not. Meanwhile, Bush weilds his compassionate hatchet. Wake up, my good man.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous aka "cutiepie" johnson said...

JATS, man, read the blog. JABBS has had 73 stories (ok, that's exaggerating) focusing on the alternate truth (aka conservative spin) being pushed on America, and the hypocrisy of the "compassionate conservatives" (aka Bush, DeLay, Frist, etc.)

Appreciate you pointing out the WSJ article, though.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous alias "cutiepie" johnson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:47 PM  

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