Despite a lack of evidence, several media sources have repeated conservative speculation and accusations that Democrats secretly authored a "talking points" memo that described the Terri Schiavo case as a "great political issue" for Senate Republicans. These baseless accusations, apparently hatched on right-wing blogs and in conservative media such as The American Spectator, were given credibility by The Washington Post and CNN's Inside Politics. But as recent reports indicate, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) has admitted publicly that one of his aides is the true author of the memo.
As "evidence" for their claims that the Schiavo memo was a Democratic "dirty trick," conservative blogs such as Power Line and media sources pointed to the fact that the memo was "unsigned" and not on official Senate letterhead. In another posting on March 22, Power Line suggested that the memo was "suspicious" because it "mix[ed] political strategy points...with talking points for Senatorial argument.
On March 23, Michelle Malkin repeated the "evidence" touted by Power Line, and suggested that spelling errors in the memo also raised questions about its authenticity.
In a March 23 post to his blog on the National Review's website, Jim Geraghty also repeated the "evidence" that appeared on the Power Line blog, and stated that "creepy phrases" in the memo indicate that the memo was written by a dumb GOP operative or a "Democratic dirty trickster."
Similarly, in its March 24 "Washington Prowler" column, The American Spectator echoed the same so-called "evidence" and stated, "It's Rathergate all over again."
On March 30, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported on the controversy surrounding the memo. Kurtz apparently relied on the so-called "evidence" put forth by Power Line and the Spectator to reach the conclusion that "there are several strange things about" the memo:
While there is no hard evidence that the memo is fake, there are several strange things about it, including the basic fact that no one seems to know who wrote it and that the noncontroversial part of it is lifted from a Republican senator's press release.
Kurtz failed to indicate why it was "strange" that part of the memo was lifted from a press release by the senator who had co-sponsored the Schiavo legislation and took a leadership role in its passage. In hindsight, of course, it is perfectly clear why the Schiavo memo included text from Martinez's press release. It is also perfectly clear why "no one seem[ed] to know who wrote it" -- those responsible for the memo were, unsurprisingly, keeping their involvement secret.
Finally, on April 6, The Washington Times published a front-page article titled "Was the Schiavo memo a fake?" that used a formal survey of Senate offices as "evidence" for questioning the authenticity of the Schiavo memo.
Armed with this so-called "evidence" -- that the memo had typographical and spelling errors, was not printed on Senate stationary and had passages pulled from a Republican senator's press release, as well as the fact that Republican Senate offices were not rushing to take responsibility for a highly controversial and widely denounced memo -- conservative commentators took to the airwaves and the Internet to suggest that the Schiavo memo was, in fact, a Democratic dirty trick. Syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh pointed to a Democratic "opposition research office" and stated: "Apparently the explanation is it was forged! The memo was made up by Democrat staffers." On NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, Tucker Carlson stated: "I think within a week or two it will become clear that it -- that memo -- was a forgery, possibly written by Democrats on the Hill in an effort to discredit Republicans." Executive editor Fred Barnes even wrote in the Weekly Standard that this was another case of liberal media bias:
So rather than an example of aggressive reporting, the memo story turns out to be yet another instance of crude liberal bias, in this case against both Republicans and those who fought to have Schiavo's feeding tube restored.
Below is Media Matters for America's timeline tracing the elevation of baseless speculation on right-wing blogs into news, worthy of The Washington Post (whose political reporter Mike Allen, ironically enough, was one of the first to cover the original story of the Schiavo memo's appearance in the Senate).
TIMELINE OF A SMEAR:
Fishkite Blog questions whether they are really talking points and alludes to 60 Minutes scandal.
How are those talking points?
And if they are talking points, why couldn't ABC News just interview any given Senate Republican, rather than "obtaining" them? Or they could have embarrassed [sic] one of them by seeing if he read directly from the page.
Any chance these talking points came via a fax machine from somebody named "B.B." at a Kinkos in Texas?
John Hinderaker of Power Line blog asks, "Is This the Biggest Hoax Since the Sixty Minutes Story?"
Is This the Biggest Hoax Since the Sixty Minutes Story? Most Senate and House memos are written on letterhead that show whose office they came from. Is this memo on such letterhead? Apparently not. As best I can tell, it is anonymous. Is it simply a one-page memo on blank white paper that purports to come from a Republican? If so, is there any reason to assume that it is genuine? How does the Senate's mail system work? Can anyone write an anonymous memo, and send it to 55 Republican Senators, with a copy to ABC News? ...Based on the fragments from the memo that were reported by the Post, I question its authenticity. It does not sound like something written by a conservative; it sounds like a liberal fantasy of how conservatives talk.
Hinderaker argues that evidence on the memo's authenticity puts the burden on The Washington Post to prove the document is not a dirty trick.
So, to sum up: The memo itself contains no clue as to its origins. That in itself is suspicious; the memo's contents are hardly appropriate for an anonymous communication. The fact that the memo appeared in Senators' offices (or, for that matter, at ABC News) proves nothing, as anyone, including a Democratic dirty trickster, could have distributed it. Mike Allen of the Washington Post says he knows something he can't tell us, but his only argument for why the memo is authentic--some Senators had it--is silly. Further, the content of the memo is highly suspicious. Why would anyone mix political strategy points--the ones the Democrats want to talk about--with talking points for Senatorial argument? A competent staffer preparing a talking points memo wouldn't do that, but a Democratic dirty trickster would.
Does this prove the memo is a fraud? Not at all. It is possible that somewhere in the House or Senate there is a Republican staffer dumb enough to have produced and circulated it. The question, though, is: what is the evidence that the memo is genuine? At this point, there is none. And, with all due respect to Mike Allen, "trust me" is no longer adequate proof.
Hinderaker concludes it is "most likely" the memo was created by a Democratic source.
The memo has three possible origins. The first possibility is that it was created by a low-level Republican staffer. This seems possible, but highly unlikely. ... The second possibility is that the memo was created by a lobbying group, presumably the Traditional Values Coalition ... The third possibility is that the memo is a Democratic dirty trick. At the moment, that looks most likely.
CNN's Inside Politics' "Inside the Blogs":
ABBI TATTON (CNN political producer): Now more on those Schiavo talking points that surfaced on Capitol Hill and got into the hands of reporters over the weekend, then made their way onto the Web. You can see them here at liberal blog, "D.C.'s Inside Scoop," under the title, "GOP Schiavo Talking Points Revealed In Full." As you'll remember, it says -- one of the points: "This is a great political issue." Well conservative bloggers are now shifting the attention from the content of these talking points to who the authors of this memo actually are.
JACKI SCHECHNER (CNN blog reporter): One blog taking a hearty look at it is powerlineblog.com. You'll remember them as being heavily involved in the Dan Rather memo-gate scandal. They've got a lot of readers weighing in, some of them who allegedly work in Congress, saying that these are very suspicious, and they don't know what's going on. But he does go down to point out at the very end, Candy -- I just want to show you this -- "The memo itself contains no clue as to its origins." He says, "Does it prove the memo is a fraud? Not at all. It is possible that somewhere in the House or Senate, there is a Republican staffer dumb enough to have produced and circulated it. Is there any evidence that it's genuine? At this point, there is not."
The American Spectator claims: "It's Rathergate all over again."
It's Rathergate all over again, and the same vigilant entities that brought about to the collapse of CBS News could now also cause heads to roll among Democratic Senate leadership staffers and further shame multiple news organizations that would appear to have fallen for another document hoax.
Republican leadership staffers now believe the document was generated out of the Democratic opposition research office set up recently by Sen. Harry Reid, and distributed to some Democratic Senate staffers claiming it was a GOP document, in the hope -- or more likely expectation -- that it would then be leaked by those Democrats to reporters. In fact, the New York Times stated that it was Democratic staffers who were distributing the "talking points" document.
Other Republican staffers blame not only Democrats but also the mainstream media which once again put out a story to embarrass Republicans before checking all the facts first.
Republicans staffers looking into the "talking points" case believe that at least some of the language used for the original Traditional Values Coalition may have come from documents pulled together by the staff of Sen. Mel Martinez, who has been out front on the Schiavo case, and pressed hard for federal action to save her life. But there is no evidence that the talking points were a Martinez staff product.
Accuracy in Media press release: "[E]vidence suggests that the memo may have been manufactured as part of an effort to make Republicans look bad."
Accuracy in Media today questioned the authenticity of the much-publicized "GOP Talking Points" memo on the Terri Schiavo case. The document has been seized upon by ABC news, the Washington Post, CBS News and other media to accuse Republicans of having partisan motives in trying to save Terri Schiavo. Cliff Kincaid, editor of AIM, said that the major media should explain how they verified the document and why they believe it is authentic. He said evidence suggests that the memo may have been manufactured as part of an effort to make Republicans look bad.
The Martinez March 8 release had been posted on the web site of the Traditional Values Coalition, where it could have been easily copied and then altered. James Lafferty, a consultant to the group, believes that a liberal political operative took parts of the Martinez release, added the political references, and then pawned it off to the media as an official GOP Senate document. "I see it as a dirty trick," Lafferty told AIM. The New York Times confirmed that Democratic aides had "passed out" the controversial memo "that they said had been distributed to Senate Republicans." Lafferty said that he had access to all the memos on the Schiavo case coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill and that the much-publicized "GOP Talking Points" memo that the media seized upon never came to his attention. "We've seen other talking points from other conservative groups as well and none of them had any of this political stuff," he said.
"Shame on the media" for reporting the dubious memo, said Lafferty. "Unless they've got another source they haven't told us about, what they've reported is unquestioning acceptance of a piece of paper. As CBS learned recently, you cannot trust a piece of paper without verifying what's on it."
Rush Limbaugh: "The memo was made up by Democrat staffers."
As the American Spectator reports, "It's Rathergate all over again, and the same vigilant entities that brought about to the collapse of CBS News could now also cause heads to roll among Democratic Senate leadership staffers and further shame multiple news organizations that would appear to have fallen for another document hoax." ... The document, which was posted online by ABC News, as well as several Democratic-leaning websites, was unsigned, bore no Senate office letterhead, and was rife with errors, including the incorrect Senate bill number and the misspelling of Schiavo's name.
For days, Republicans denied any knowledge of the document, and a number of Republican Senators claimed they had never seen it... Republican leadership staffers now believe the document was generated out of the Democratic opposition research office set up recently by Senator [Dingy] Harry Reid, and distributed to some Democratic Senate staffers claiming it was a GOP document, in the hope -- or more likely expectation -- that it would then be leaked by those Democrats to reporters. In fact, the New York Times stated that it was Democratic staffers who were distributing the 'talking points,'" memo, the document. ... Apparently the explanation is it was forged! The memo was made up by Democrat staffers.
Even though it's forged, it's probably still true, so what difference does it make, just like Dan Rather's excuse for the Bill Burkett documents and so forth. You know, it is (laughing.) ... So it is clear that the Democrats wanted to politicize this and make the Republicans look like they were politicizing Terri Schiavo, and pandering. Why would the Democrats do this? Because they're scared of this issue.
Bill Bennett: "I think it was planted either by a fraud or an idiot."
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
ALAN COLMES (host): Bill, of course, I would argue Republicans can look bad all by themselves. They don't need the help. But some of the things it says in the memo, the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue. Mike Allen of The Washington Post stands by the story. What do you say?
WILLIAM J. BENNETT (radio host and guest): Well, I think it is catching fire on the Hill, Alan. I think it was planted either by a fraud or an idiot. It certainly is wrong, isn't it? It's not exactly uniting conservatives around the country. Most polls show that conservatives, like liberals, sad to say, are opposed to the position at the Republican Congress and 50 Democrats.
COLMES: These are the people who rushed back on Palm Sunday.
BENNETT: It doesn't seem -- doesn't seem to be a prescient memo, political memo. It's not signed, Alan. It doesn't have a letterhead on it. It shouldn't be taken seriously. You don't respond to anonymous e- mails.
Hinderaker: "There is no evidence that this memo came from the Republicans."
From the March 24 edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company:
LAWRENCE KUDLOW (host): All right. I don't want to lose this. I gotta get John Hinderaker in here, and then I'm going to come back to Hugh Hewitt on this. Obviously we have time limits. But, lookit, John Hinderaker, there's a political angle that kind of smells here. Was there a Democrat dirty-tricks attempt to foray a memo that ABC and The Washington Post picked up, so-called talking points, that never existed?
HINDERAKER: I think there may have been, Larry. There's a memo, which was being touted as the GOP talking points memo, talking about the Schiavo case that ostensibly was distributed in the Senate last Thursday night. And it says things like, "The pro-life base will be excited by this," and, "This is a great political issue for us." And the Democrats have been touting this and showing that the Republicans are trying to politicize the Schiavo case. But we've been looking into this on Power Line, and there is no evidence that this memo came from the Republicans at all. There's no name on it, there's no letterhead, there's nothing to indicate a source. The New York Times has reported that Democratic aides were seen passing it out and claiming it was a Republican memo, but there's no evidence for that.
KUDLOW: Does this have a Rathergate feel to it, you know, trying to smear George W. Bush with memos that never existed?
HINDERAKER: Well, I think, to some degree, it does. I mean, obviously, we're not in the middle of a presidential campaign. But the memo, on its face, sort of like those Texas Air National Guard memos, doesn't make any sense. It's supposedly a talking points memo, and most of the body of the memo is literally cut and paste from the Web site of the Traditional...
HINDERAKER: ...Values Coalition.
HINDERAKER: And it makes certain points, you know, on the substance of the issue of the Schiavo case.
HINDERAKER: But then it adds -- whoever did this memo added these political comments.
HINDERAKER: So those don't make any sense as talking points.
KUDLOW: And I thought...
HINDERAKER: No Republican is going to say those to a --
KUDLOW: For a minute there we could actually have a clean discussion of religion and morality and life with them. But there we go, little dirty tricks.
Joshua Claybourn of In the Agora blog says he was tipped by four GOP Senate staffers that an aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote the memo. Claybourn subsequently retracts the claim.
On Friday four staffers accused a renegade aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) of distributing forged "talking points" to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship. In the Agora's extensive investigations in the alleged "GOP" Schiavo talking points memo reveal possible tricks from low level Democratic aides. Two of the four GOP staffers tell ITA they were eyewitnesses to the exchange.
Late Friday evening I posted the accusations of four supposed Senate staffers who claimed a Democratic aide had distributed the "GOP" talking points memo. I now have reason to believe that in unraveling a hoax I was hoaxed myself.
Tucker Carlson: "...within a week or two, it will become clear that it -- that memo -- was a forgery, possibly written by Democrats..."
From the March 27 edition of NBC News' The Chris Matthews Show:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): OK. Tucker Carlson.
CARLSON: Last week, a memo surfaced purportedly written by Republican leaders in Congress explaining how to make hay of the Terri Schiavo case. It was a talking points memo. I think within a week or two it will become clear that it--that memo was a forgery, possibly written by Democrats on the Hill in an effort to discredit Republicans.
CARLSON: Bloggers are saying that right now, and it sounds like they may be right.
MATTHEWS: Wow. You think they were? You think it's a fake?
CARLSON: I--I don't know but it--it said that Schiavo was misspelled on the memo.
Fox News' Brit Hume repeats claims that Republicans had never seen the memo and that it contained "numerous factual and typographical errors" to discredit it.
From the March 28 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: 'The New York Times' reports that media outlets obtained that controversial memo highlighting political benefit of the Terri Schiavo case from Democratic aides, who said it had been distributed to Senate Republicans. But according to FOX News contributor, Fred Barnes, top Senate Republicans including majority leader Bill Frist and majority whip Mitch McConnell never saw the memo. What's more, the "talking points" were printed on blank paper, no letterhead, date or signature, contain numerous factual and typographical errors. And now ABC News, which first ran the memo under the headline "GOP Talking Points," ABC News now says they never meant to imply that it was created by Republicans."
Hinderaker op-ed in The Weekly Standard: "A reasonable conclusion would be that the 'talking points memo' might be a fake."
To sum up, then: (1) The memo itself conveys no information about its source. (2) It is very poorly done, containing a number of typographical errors, failing to get the number of the Senate bill correct, and using points cribbed word-for-word from an advocacy group's website. (3) The politically controversial statements are out of place in a talking points memo, and seem, on the contrary, ideally framed to create talking points for the Democrats. (4) Somewhat bizarrely, after the contents of the memo had been reported, someone corrected those typographical errors--but only those errors that had been pointed out by ABC. (5) No one has reported seeing any Republican distributing the suspect memo; the only people confirmed to have passed out the memo were Democratic staffers.
A reasonable conclusion would be that the "talking points memo" might be a fake, created by Democrats to cast aspersions on the motives of the Republican leadership. Every Republican who has been asked about the memo has denied knowing anything about it. Unless someone talks--at a minimum, identifying the Democratic aides who distributed the memo on March 17 -- we likely will never know who, exactly, created it.
Limbaugh asserts the memo is forged.
From the March 29 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: [Reading from the Los Angeles Times] "A goal underscored by a [fake] memo ascribed to the Senate leadership that surfaced amid the Schiavo debate in Congress, extolling the political advantages of using the Schiavo case ..."
It's a forged memo! Nobody in the Senate Republican leadership has the slightest idea where this memo came from.
Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post: "[T]here are several strange things about [the memo]."
While there is no hard evidence that the memo is fake, there are several strange things about it, including the basic fact that no one seems to know who wrote it and that the noncontroversial part of it is lifted from a Republican senator's press release.
ABC and The Post say their reports on the Schiavo memo were accurate and carefully worded. The document caused a stir because it described the Schiavo controversy as "a great political issue" that would excite "the pro-life base" and be "a tough issue for Democrats," singling out Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson. Two days after the memo was reported, the Republican-controlled Congress approved a bill, signed by Bush, to transfer jurisdiction of Schiavo's case from Florida courts to the federal judiciary in an effort to restore the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.
"There's nothing on the face of the document to identify a source -- not only is it unsigned, there's no letterhead, no nothing," Hinderaker said yesterday. "This is literally a piece of paper with stuff typed on it that could have been written by anyone."
Accuracy in Media press release: "[M]edia outlets who reported on this bogus memo need to admit their error."
In a case that is coming to resemble the CBS "Memogate" scandal, Kurtz mounts a defense by quoting Post reporter Mike Allen and various anonymous sources as now saying that the document was "unofficial" and "a sheet of paper" and that a Democratic Party Senate official even refused to "publicly" discuss its origin. "It looks more and more like the memo originated from the Democratic side of the aisle," said Kincaid. "The Post has been caught in a new 'Memogate' scandal and it refuses to admit or recognize it."
The Washington Post and other media outlets who reported on this bogus memo need to admit their error.
Accuracy In Media (AIM) is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.
Wes Vernon of NewsMax claims examination by American Spectator, Limbaugh, Hannity and others indicates the memo is a "fraud" and "political dirty trick."
There was just one problem: Closer examination by The American Spectator, talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, The Weekly Standard, and Accuracy in Media (AIM) indicates that the memo is a fraud - a political dirty trick, if you will, specifically aimed at causing public revulsion at Republicans.
CNN's Inside Politics "Inside the Blogs" segment
CAL CHAMBERLAIN (CNN blog reporter): Yes. There's another story that's making -- getting a lot of links today and it's the Howard Kurtz piece that showed up in The Washington Post today, entitled "Doubts Raise on the Schiavo Memo." And the Schiavo memo was this memo that ABC News said they obtained, that was the GOP talking points that was passed out to the Republicans and then two days later, The Washington Post claimed the same thing. And --
JACKI SCHECHNER (CNN blog reporter): Well, the blogs questioned it.
CHAMBERLAIN: Well, the problem with it was the credibility, they didn't claim authorship and they wouldn't give it out. And so the blogs wanted to know who wrote it and who authored it, and ABC said no way. So Howard Kurtz wrote an article and kind of explained what was going on with ABC and The Washington Post.
And the Right Pundit is critical of the Kurtz article, saying, "what Kurtz doesn't mention are the two real questions of the day. Who authored the memo? What efforts are the Post and ABC News making to discover who authored the memo? If the memo is news-worthy because of what he said, it's important to know who wrote the memo." So their main gripe was that he didn't take the ball and roll with it and actually get the source of the GOP talking points memo that was alleged by ABC News.
Scott Johnson op-ed in The Daily Standard: "There may be a story here."
STILL, there may be a story here: The memo in question is a pathetic piece of work. It is on a blank piece of paper with no letterhead, signature, or identification. It gets the Senate bill number wrong, misspells Terri Schiavo's name, and is full of typographical errors. The only people reported to have distributed it (by the New York Times) were Democratic staffers. And -- most fundamentally -- it is odd to think that the Republican leadership would produce a "talking points" memo discussing what great politics the Schiavo case was for Republicans. Those aren't talking points; not for Republicans, anyway.
Fred Barnes op-ed in The Weekly Standard: "[T]he memo story turns out to be yet another instance of crude liberal bias."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist never saw it. Neither did the Senate Republican whip, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The number three Republican in the Senate, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, didn't get a copy. Nor did the senator with the closest relationship with President Bush, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. And the senator with the familiar Republican last name, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, didn't see it or read it. The same is true of Senator Mel Martinez, the rookie Republican from Florida.
Yet the infamous memo that argued Republicans stood to gain politically by saving the life of Terri Schiavo was characterized by ABC News as consisting of "GOP Talking Points." True, a few paragraphs were of Republican origin. They had been lifted, word for word, from a Martinez press release outlining the provisions of his legislative proposal, "The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act." This was the inoffensive part of the memo. The offensive part--it didn't come from Martinez--left the strong impression that Republicans are callous and cynical in their attempt to save Schiavo's life, ill-motivated in the extreme.
There wasn't a hint in these reports the memo could have any other source but Republicans. Yet there was no evidence it had come from Republicans. It was unsigned and had no letterhead or date. Nothing indicated it came from the Republican leadership or the House or Senate campaign committee or from the Republican National Committee or even from a stray Republican staffer. The only evidence was of a dirty trick--and there wasn't much evidence of that. Powerline, the influential blog, found a version of the memo with typos cleaned up on left-wing websites.
The only basis for blaming Republicans was the unsubstantiated allegation that the memo was spread among Republican senators. Yet no senator stepped forward and said, "Yes, I got that memo." Now consider what would have happened if a damning memo had been distributed to Democratic senators, saying the Schiavo issue could be used politically against Republicans. Would anyone in the mainstream media have jumped on it? I doubt it. Only right-wing bloggers would have.
So rather than an example of aggressive reporting, the memo story turns out to be yet another instance of crude liberal bias, in this case against both Republicans and those who fought to have Schiavo's feeding tube restored. Naturally the memo had a second life when the story was picked up by other news outlets, pundits, and columnists. How did ABC and others get wind of the memo in the first place? It came from "Democratic aides," according to the New York Times, who "said it had been distributed to Senate Republicans." Not exactly a disinterested source.
As the memo flap suggests, media bias against Schiavo's parents, who led the fight to have her feeding tube restored, and their allies was extensive. The mainstream media failed to report lapses in Terri Schiavo's medical examination, diagnosis, and treatment. One had to turn to bloggers. To find anything less than favorable about Michael Schiavo, the husband who insisted Terri's feeding tube be removed, the alternative press was the best bet. The mainstream press, meanwhile, twitted conservatives for hypocritically abandoning states' rights in the effort to save Terri. Liberals, suddenly champions of states' rights instead of federal power, got a pass.
Bias seeped into polling. An ABC News poll question said Terri Schiavo was on "life support" and has "no consciousness and her condition is irreversible." "Do you support . . . the decision to remove Terri's feeding tube?" A large majority said they did. But Schiavo was not on life support as most people understand the term, may have some consciousness, and some neurologists believe she has a chance of partial recovery. Given those facts, would you want to stay alive? ABC didn't ask.
The Washington Times: "Was the Schiavo memo a fake?"
Every Republican senator says he wasn't the source
All 55 Republican senators say they have never seen the Terri Schiavo political talking-points memo that Democrats say was circulated among Republicans during the floor debate over whether the federal government should intervene to prolong her life.
Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, said the issue "stinks" of a news fabrication similar to the one that engulfed CBS anchorman Dan Rather during the 2004 presidential campaign, after he reported that President Bush did not fulfill his duties while in the National Guard, citing documents that CBS later admitted could not be authenticated.
"I've never seen it, and nobody ever gave it to me," Mr. Bennett said of the purported Schiavo memo, adding: "As far as I'm concerned, it is an invention of the press."