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.