- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Talk-show hosts and conservative media monitors have accused mainstream news organizations of emphasizing opinion polls and reports that imply the American public supports court decisions to withhold sustenance from Terri Schiavo.

“While the press is busy debating the legal, political and moral aspects of her situation, Terri Schiavo is dying,” radio talk host Laura Ingraham said yesterday. She suggested prisoners on death row, pets and endangered wildlife would get a better break.

Broadcast news has been slanted against efforts to reconnect Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube, the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) said.

The Alexandria-based group examined 31 reports from ABC, NBC and CBS that aired March 17 to 21. It found that 60 percent of them concentrated on Michael Schiavo’s argument that his wife be allowed to die while 40 percent featured the plea of parents Robert and Mary Schindler to continue care for their daughter.

Although the networks offered multiple medical opinions that Mrs. Schiavo would never recover, none offered “even one dissenting expert,” the research center said.

It found that 59 percent of the stories “repudiated Congress for acting to permit Mrs. Schiavo’s parents to bring their case to a federal court before their daughter starves to death,” MRC analyst Rich Noyes said.

Some celebrities are joining the fray: Mel Gibson, Pat Boone and singer Randy Travis argued for saving Mrs. Schiavo’s life, Fox News reported yesterday.

Several polls have been cited favoring her husband’s case.

“Majority agrees with judge’s decision in Schiavo case,” a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 620 adults taken Tuesday night and released yesterday found.

According to the respondents, 37 percent “strongly agree” with a federal judge’s decision to remove Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube, while 30 percent “strongly disagree.” Another 15 percent say they “agree only moderately,” 9 percent “disagree only moderately,” while 9 percent had no opinion.

In their accounts, CBS, the Associated Press and other news organizations noted yesterday that “six out of 10 Americans” agreed with the decision to withhold food and water from Mrs. Schiavo, all citing an ABC News poll of 501 adults released Monday.

But backers of Mrs. Schiavo say the wording of a primary poll question exaggerated her status, describing her as on “life support” with “no consciousness.” Until last Friday, Mrs. Schiavo was on a feeding tube — not a ventilator — and can articulate simple phrases and emotions, some attendants say.

The actual poll numbers? The ABC poll found that although 42 percent “strongly” supported the decision, 21 percent “somewhat” supported it.

Of those respondents with loved ones who died after hospital life support was discontinued, only 18 percent said they were “personally” involved in the decision.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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