Sign of the Times ? NY Times, St. Petersburg Times misrepresented political ties of individuals praising Jeb Bush's handling of Schiavo case
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
In reports on Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's role in the Terri Schiavo case and its ramifications for his political future, both The New York Times and the St. Petersburg Times quoted individuals praising Bush without noting their conservative ideological views or their close professional ties to him.
In a March 25 article titled "In a Polarizing Case, Jeb Bush Cements His Political Stature," The New York Times quoted University of South Florida professor Susan MacManus praising Bush without disclosing her ties to his administration. MacManus served on Bush's transition team on health care; was appointed by Bush to the Florida Elections Commission and served as an adviser to Bush as of August 2004.
The New York Times reported MacManus's assertion that Bush is "a very ideologically consistent person" who is "putting politics aside" in the Terri Schiavo case:
Susan McManus [sic], a political science professor at the University of South Florida, said: "He [Bush] is a very ideologically consistent person. He made no bones about that from the first day he ran for office. Those of us who watch him think this is Jeb, and how he truly believes and what he truly believes, and this may be one of those instances where he's putting politics aside."
A March 25 St. Petersburg Times article titled "Bush's powers fall short of beliefs" quoted two sources -- Florida Catholic Conference executive director Michael McCarron and former Florida Republican Party chairman Tom Slade -- as evidence that Bush's "supporters and critics agree" that his "actions are not motivated by polls or political ambition, but by personal conviction." But neither of these figures -- both conservatives -- could fairly be described as "critics" of Bush. The Florida Catholic Conference agrees with Bush that Schiavo's feeding tube should not be removed. On February 28, the group issued a "plea that Mrs. Schiavo continues to receive all treatments and care that will be of benefit to her."
Additionally, following the lead of cable news coverage, the St. Petersburg Times also lent tacit support to those who want Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted, describing such advocates as "Schiavo supporters" (as opposed to "supporters of Schiavo's parents"). This usage amounts to taking sides in the dispute, since the court case centers precisely on whether Terri Schiavo would want to continue living in a persistent vegetative state and, by extension, who her true "supporters" are. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, claims his wife would not want to continue living in her current state, kept alive by a feeding tube; her parents, sister and brother disagree.