Back in 2009, the religious right, in tandem with Fox News, got heavily involved with what was basically a child custody case which pitted the rights of a Muslim girl's parents against a right wing Christian group. The Christians, whose side Fox was squarely on, were harboring the young woman who accused her parents of abusing her. The newest right wing Christian crusade involves a case in which a 15 year old girl who is in state custody as a result of competing medical diagnoses. Glenn Beck has been obsessing about the case. Matt Staver, whose religious right advocacy group represented the Muslim girl, is providing legal assistance. And now, Fox News is giving this newest radical right crusade national attention with one Shep Smith report and two segments on the Kelly File. While Fox and the religious right used the Muslim girl's case to vilify Islam, this case doesn't seem to have an ideological basis. Or am I missing something?
The case is not your typical abuse/neglect situation. Justine Pelletier, a Connecticut 15 year old, was, in 2013 brought to the Boston Children's hospital emergency room in a weakened condition. The doctors diagnosed the problem as psychosomatic and contacted Mass. child welfare because they suspected the parents had denied mental health treatment and subjected the girl to unnecessary medical treatment at Tufts, whose specialists had diagnosed the child with mitochondrial disease. Because the parents refused to sign the Boston hospital's plan of care, she was then remanded into state custody, at a medical facility, which the parents are fighting. On Monday, Pelletier's mother collapsed and her father had an emotional outburst after a judge did not release the child back to her parents, but remanded her into foster placement. Tuesday, Fox News brought the case to national attention.
Shep Smith opened his segment with a description of the emotional scene during the court hearing, described by Smith as a "setback in a bizarre custody case" that has pitted "doctors against doctors, families against the state." He reported the backstory showing before and after photos of Pelletier. Smith, in taking the family's side, asserted that the child was doing better after the Tufts diagnosis. He spoke with the girl's sister who presented the family's argument. Smith, not a clinician, didn't "understand how the doctors at Boston Children's could make these allegations and take your sister away from your family." He then tossed to Bill O'Reilly gal pal, attorney Wendy Murphy who noted that child custody issues are determined by a team of specialists who, in this case, can't give their side because of confidentiality. She said that she suspects that there is a mental health issue here and the judge's decision is important. Pelletier's sister disagreed.
On Monday night, Megyn Kelly spoke with Matt Staver. As did Shep, she opened with a dramatic rendering of the emotional court scene. She wanted to know what was really going on. Staver immediately defended the parents who "just love their daughter and want to care" for her. Unlike Murphy, who presented a reasoned argument, attorney Kelly "summarized" the situation by maligning child welfare workers and clinicians at Boston Children's Hospital: "DCF basically, I mean they -- they basically deferred to Boston Children's. They go in there -- they don't have their own medical experts. They go to the judge and say the people at Boston Children says they're -- you know, basically abusing the girl. Gee, judge that's bad, and the judge says oh yeah, that is bad. Custody to DCF."
After she presented the hospital's case, Staver claimed Justine is getting worse in their care. Kelly, an attorney who should know better, couldn't figure out why there is a gag order. Kelly then presented what seems to be Fox's validation: "And the American public, they want answers. Because this goes beyond the Pelletier family, the question is whether this can happen to any family with the hospital like Boston Children's. This is basically Harvard, right? A hospital like this can lead to -- you trying to help your kid, and the next thing you know, you lose custody of her for a year and you can't speak about it."
So where is Fox going with this and why, inquiring minds want to know.