- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

However one feels about the Terri Schiavo case, the mainstream media coverage has been indisputably abysmal.

On a fundamental matter of life and death, the MSM heavyweights have proven themselves utterly incapable of fair reporting. Take a widely publicized ABC News poll released Monday that supposedly showed strong public opposition to any Washington intervention in Terri’s case. Here is how the spinmasters framed the main poll question:

“As you may know, a woman in Florida named Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her parents and her husband disagree on whether or not she should be kept on life support. In cases like this who do you think should have final say, (the parents) or (the spouse)?”

A follow-up question asked: “If you were in this condition, would you want to be kept alive, or not?”

The problem is that, contrary to what ABC News told those polled, Terri Schiavo is not on “life support” and has never been. The loaded phrase evokes images of a comatose patient artificially sustained by myriad machines and pumps and wires. Terri was on a feeding tube. A feeding tube is not a ventilator. Terri can breathe just fine on her own.

Her parents and many of her medical caretakers and parents have argued that, given proper rehabilitation, Terri could learn to chew and swallow on her own. She is disabled, not dead.

But ABC News did not see fit to inform either the poll takers or its viewers of the truth. Instead, it misled them, and the result was a poll response that produced — voila — “broad public disapproval” for any government intervention to spare Terri from slowly starving to death.

Blogger Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters (captainsquartersblog.com) noted: “Either ABC is completely incompetent in conducting research, or they have attempted to fool their viewers and readership with false polling that essentially lies about the case in question. Since when does ABC conduct push polling for euthanasia?”

Imagine how the poll results might have turned out if ABC News had made clear to participants that Terri is not terminally ill, not in excruciating pain. She is capable of saying “Mommy” and “Help me” and of “getting the feeling she’s falling” or getting “excited,” in her husband’s own testimony, when her head is not held properly.

Imagine how the poll results might have turned out if ABC News had informed participants that in a sworn affidavit, registered nurse Carla Sauer Iyer, who worked at the Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center in Largo, Fla., while Terri Schiavo was a patient there, testified: “Throughout my time at Palm Gardens, Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri’s death. Michael would say ‘When is she going to die?’ ‘Has she died yet?’ and ‘When is that bitch gonna die?’ ” Now, if you were in this situation, would you want to be kept alive, or not?

Not to pick on ABC News, but, well, let’s. In an attempt to embarrass Rep. Dave Weldon, Florida Republican, who noted withdrawing food and water from someone like Mrs. Schiavo was extremely rare, ABC’s Jake Tapper last week featured this counter-quote from Professor Bill Allen of the University of Florida College of Medicine: “Feeding tubes have been removed in the United States for many years, and it’s been a common practice. This has happened in many cases, probably 100,000 times in this country.”

“A hundred thousand times”? There have been 100,000 cases of non-terminally ill, non-brain-dead individuals slowly starved and forced to die in this country? Mr. Tapper demanded no proof from the professor. Instead, he dismissed lawmakers as ignoramuses contradicted by “experts,” cited the biased ABC News poll cited above, and tossed it back to anchor Peter Jennings with this slam: “Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week.”

Meanwhile, contradicting the experience of every starved African child and abandoned animal at an SPCA shelter, the New York Times tells us: “Experts say ending feeding can lead to a gentle death.”

Is it any wonder the credibility of the mainstream media is withering on the vine?

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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