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March 21, 2005
NYT Misrepresents Schiavo Case In News Article

Carl Hulse and David Kirkpatrick report on the Congressional action taken yesterday to allow Terri Schiavo's parents access to the federal courts for a new trial. Unfortunately but predictably, this "news" report contains half-truths, loaded language, and a flat-out falsehood, all of which reveal the biases of the reporters. Consider the lack of context for this passage:

With just a few senators on hand for an emergency session on a rainy Sunday, the Senate quickly approved the legislation. Its authors hope the measure leads to a federal court order to resume providing nutrition to Ms. Schiavo over the objections of her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo. A series of state court decisions have sided with him.

It might be somewhat accurate that a series of state court decisions have sided with Michael Schiavo, but all of those involving finding of fact have been decided by one man, George Greer, the judge who has presided over Terri's fate from the beginning. The other court decisions have been appellate decisions, which do not permit arguments on findings of fact, or at least have not in this case. The appelate courts merely find on procedure. In fact, Terri has not had another venue in which to argue for her own interests at all.

Hulse and Kirkpatrick then use this loaded language:

Ms. Schiavo's mother, meanwhile, issued a national appeal for parents to call their Congressional representatives and pressure them to vote for the bill to prolong her daughter's life.

Terri's life isn't being "prolonged" by her feeding tube any more than mine was when my wife cooked my breakfast this morning. The verb prolong gives a clear innuendo that her treatment somehow artificially extends Terri's life, and that she would die without extraordinary treatment. However, that simply isn't the case. Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill, and wasn't dying until Judge Greer ordered her feeding tube removed. She isn't even in a coma. She is profoundly disabled, no question, but so are thousands of other Americans who require feeding tubes to stay alive.

The Paper of Record then manages to completely whiff on the facts of the case:

Ms. Schiavo, who is 41, suffered extensive brain damage 15 years ago when her heart stopped briefly, probably because of a potassium deficiency. Since then, she has remained in what doctors have described as a "persistent vegetative state."

That statement is flat-out untrue. Terri wasn't diagnosed as PVS until well after her heart attack. In fact, one of the components of Michael Schiavo's malpractice suit was a fund to provide Terri with therapy, as it had shown promise and improved her condition. Not until years later did anyone claim Terri was PVS (I believe it was 1998, but you can check here for a timeline).

The Gray Lady claims itself as the leading journalistic resource for the United States. However, their writing leaves much to be desired, and it should come as no surprise to their dwindling readership that their biases come through shiningly clear in what supposedly should be the objective news section. Even their research comes up short. Remind me again how the Exempt Media has the advantage due to the layers of editors and fact-checkers employed to screen out exactly what we see in this article.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 21, 2005 6:57 AM

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