A study by a media watchdog group indicates television stories of the life-and-death battle of Terri Schiavo are slanted against the brain-injured woman.
The Media Research Center found the three broadcast network evening newscasts “have tilted their recent coverage of the Terri Schiavo case in ways that bolster her husband Michael’s arguments that the severely disabled woman is in an irreversible vegetative state and had clearly expressed a desire to die.”
It says network reporters “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.”
MRC examined 31 evening newscasts from Thursday, March 17, the day before her feeding tube was removed, through Monday, March 21.
A majority of soundbites, 59 percent, repudiated Congress for acting to permit Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, to bring their case to federal courts.
Nearly all of the supportive comments came from members of Congress such as Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas; but condemnations came not only from husband Michael Schiavo and Democrats, but from reporters themselves.
“Whatever your beliefs,” ABC’s Jake Tapper commented on Friday, “Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week.”
Tapper also rejected the value of videotapes showing Terri Schiavo apparently responding: “In some ways, these tapes are like psychological inkblot tests. You see in them what you want.”
On Monday’s CBS Evening News, reporter Elizabeth Kaledin argued that “this is exactly the kind of scenario doctors are worried about. It’s sad enough that this case had to play out in the courts, but to get politics involved now, I think they would say, is just bad medicine.”
ABC’s Peter Jennings dismissed one of the Schindlers’ worries: “They also say that she will die a painful death, though there does not seem to be any support for that argument in the medical community.”
NBC showed Dr. Robert Cranford, who has examined Mrs. Schiavo, saying in spite of how she appears on videotape, “she’s as unconscious as someone who is dead.”
The MRC notes “none of the broadcast network stories showed even one dissenting expert. But [Fox News Channel’s] Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on Monday interviewed Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who spent 10 hours observing Terri Schiavo. Hammesfahr said she is “completely aware and conscious and responsive … like a child with cerebral palsy.”
The study also shows 60 percent of soundbites, including reporter comments, “presented Michael Schiavo’s case that Terry Schiavo should die, compared with just 40 percent offering the counter-arguments of her parents. Not a single story was devoted to a skeptical look at Schiavo and whether he was acting in his wife’s best interests, but all three networks ran stories rejecting [Terri’s parents’] view that their daughter could possibly be helped.”
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Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.