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In The Through-The Looking-Glass World of FOX News, The Staff Analyst Is An Advocate And The Guest Is Neutral

Reported by Ellen - March 30, 2005

Last night, on The Alan Colmes Show (the new name for his FOX News radio program), the guests at the beginning of the second hour were FOX News analyst Peter J. Johnson, Jr. and Dr. Michael Baden, forensic pathologist. The topic was - no surprise - Terri Schiavo. What was a surprise - even for me, after all this time - was that the FOX analyst was a non-stop advocate for the Schindler family and the guest was the fair and balanced one during the entire half-hour discussion. Shouldn't it have been the other way around?

Colmes' show is an opinion show so I don't mind the guests expressing some opinions but I would expect a FOX News legal analyst to provide at least some perspective and make at least some pretense of presenting both sides of a legal dispute. Johnson never did.

Dr. Baden started off by explaining that Terri Schiavo's condition allows her "to react to some stimuli by reflex, not by brain function." He said he could not make a diagnosis but assuming the diagnosis given her was correct, there was no hope of her recovering. However, an autopsy would show whether or not any braincells exist that can "lead her to recovery" or indicate the veracity of any of the claims that she voluntarily moved in response to something said to her or that she tried to say "I want to live."

Johnson then chimed in by saying that the autopsy was needed to investigate claims of abuse by Michael Schiavo. "Some of the (Schindler) family members have indicated that they have attempted to prosecute Michael Schiavo for attempted murder but the statute of limitations had passed." An autopsy would clear the air, Johnson said, in what may have been his only non-partisan statement. He went on to note that a 1991 bone scan showed a number of bone fractures. "That is a very, very bizarre finding from one fall from a potassium imbalance."

Baden agreed with Johnson about the value of an autopsy but also added that the bone scan - which he said he had seen - "can easily be misinterpreted or give false results. The autopsy will be able to more specifically tell whether or not she had the prior fractures."

Colmes asked Johnson if there was anything more that could be done to keep Terri Schiavo alive. Johnson used that opportunity to launch into an attack on the judicial system. "This is a moral outrage and an abomination and really a terrible demonstration of a lack of due process."

Colmes: How can you say a lack of due process? It's been court after court... it's been to the Supreme Court. How is that lack of due process?

Johnson complained that the federal review was too quick and didn't have a full hearing. "If a life is in balance and if there's a question about the bona fides, about the good faith of a guardian, a guardian who has taken up with another woman, who has fathered two children with that other woman..."

Colmes asked Baden if it was a travesty to let her die.

Baden: Yes, in a way, it is a travesty but the problem is, we must recognize the wishes of the next-of-kin and all over the country if the next of kin - who, invariably is the husband - not the blood family but the husband - if what he is saying is this is what my wife wanted, that's what's controlling.

Colmes: She can't get much better, right?

Baden: She can't get better at all.

Johnson: Dr. Baden makes a good point, Alan. The Hippocratic Oath says, "Do no harm." (I didn't hear Dr. Baden say anything related to that).

Baden: The issue is, is this prolonging dying?

Colmes: Is this a gentle, dignified way to die?

Baden: Yes... This type of death doesn't cause pain even to the people whose brains are intact. But somebody like Terri - most of her brain has been damaged and gone - I don't think she would perceive pain at all.

Colmes asked Johnson if it isn't possible Michael Schiavo is doing what he thinks is the right thing.

Johnson: I believe in the best of all people but frankly it's disturbing that he maintains this kind of octopus-like life and is trying to impose his will on this woman and four other people (no mention of Michael Schiavo's side of the story - that he is trying to carry out Terri's wishes) and it is disturbing to me on a whole bunch of levels and it's even more disturbing that a court would not appoint an independent guardian... Maybe his motives are pure, but the questions that you asked Dr. Baden before about the death that she's suffering now and... you kind of seem to make it easier for us to accept it when you say is it painful? No, no it's not really painful. But the premise of the question is, there's something wrong with this that we're starving her but it's OK if it's not really painful to her... Should we be selecting people based on disabilities in our society?

Comment: This is not the legal premise of the case, and he ought to know that. The premise is, if I understand correctly, that Michael Schiavo is her guardian and that he and others say he is carrying out her wishes, not that she "should" die because of her disability. I wish Colmes had made that point. The FOX News website states that Johnson has been a legal analyst for FNC since 1997. Last night he seemed to be working more on the Schindler family's behalf than the viewers'. It just goes to show where FNC puts its priorities.

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