O'Reilly badgered attorney with false claim about Schiavo trial

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly repeatedly suggested that his guest, attorney Michael Gross, was incorrect when Gross claimed that witnesses other than Michael Schiavo had testified that Terri Schiavo would not want to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. In fact, Judge George W. Greer noted in a post-trial order from 2000 that in addition to Michael Schiavo, his brother and sister-in-law also testified that Terri Schiavo would not want to be kept alive.

During the March 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Gross said that the courts decided that removing her feeding tube would have been Terri Schiavo's choice. O'Reilly challenged that conclusion, claiming that the state's action was based on “the word of one man”:

GROSS: And all that was decided by the Florida courts here and affirmed in every court that it was heard in was that she expressed her will. So --

O'REILLY: But how do we know that other than the word of one man?

GROSS: It wasn't the word of one man. You haven't read the trial transcript. There were many, many witnesses. And 11 courts, including six federal courts, reviewed the procedure and found the process was fair.

O'REILLY: Counselor -- counselor, name one human being outside of Michael Schiavo who testified that Terri Schiavo directly said I don't want any life support.

GROSS: What you're suggesting --

O'REILLY: Counselor, name one human being.

GROSS: OK. There were others, Bill.


GROSS: Bill, I tell --

O'REILLY: Who? You read the court transcript. Who?

GROSS: Yes, yes. I want you to hear my answer.

O'REILLY: There weren't any others.

Gross tried to move the discussion to the law of the case, but O'Reilly pressed on the testimony:

O'REILLY: I don't want to talk about the law --

GROSS: Here --

O'REILLY: -- because that's been lit -- that's been talked about to death, but there aren't any others, as far as I know -- maybe I'm wrong. I don't think so I am -- that testified directly that Terri Schiavo said no life support.

GROSS: You are wrong, but that's not the issue. It's irrelevant.

O'REILLY: But you don't know. But you can't correct me, and, if you can't, we're going to -- I'm going to go with what I have.

Greer addressed this matter in his 2000 post-trial decision allowing Michael Schiavo to disconnect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Greer discussed the testimony of three witnesses at the trial -- Michael Schiavo, his brother, Scott Schiavo, and his sister-in-law, Joan Schiavo -- which he found reliable and led to his conclusion that “clear and convincing evidence” existed that this action was Terri Schiavo's wish:

Michael Schiavo testified as to a few discussions he had with his wife concerning life support. The Guardian Ad Litem felt that this testimony standing alone would not rise to clear and convincing evidence of her intent. The court is not required to rule on this issue since it does have the benefit of the testimony of his brother and sister-in-law. As with the witness called by the Respondents, the court had the testimony of the brother and sister-in-law transcribed so that the court would not be hamstrung by relying upon its notes. The court has reviewed the testimony of Scott Schiavo and Joan Schiavo and finds nothing contained therein to be unreliable. The court notes that neither of these witnesses appeared to have shaded his or her testimony or even attempt to exclude unfavorable comments or points regarding those discussions. They were not impeached on cross-examination. Argument is made as to why they waited so long to step forward, but their explanations are worthy of belief.


Also the statements she made in the presence of Scott Schiavo at the funeral luncheon for his grandmother that “if I ever go like that just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine.” and to Joan Schiavo following a television movie in which a man following an accident was in a coma to the effect that she wanted it stated in her will that she would want the tubes and everything taken out if that ever happened to her are likewise reflective of this intent. The court specifically finds that these statements are Terri Schiavo's oral declarations concerning her intention as to what she would want done under the present circumstances and the testimony regarding such oral declarations is reliable, is creditable and rises to the level of clear and convincing evidence to this court.