On the September 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron reported that “the controversial Terri Schiavo case ... pitted culture-of-life conservatives against right-to-die civil libertarians,” echoing the “culture of life” term used by President Bush to describe his overall objective in supporting those who sought to block Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, from having Terri's feeding tube removed. Bush at the time explained his attempted intervention in the Schiavo case by saying, “It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life.” Cameron was discussing Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson's recent campaign stop with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), and reported that Thompson “has stumbled on a handful of issues near and dear to Florida Republicans,” including that “Thompson said he couldn't remember details of the controversial Terri Schiavo case.”
Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state after collapsing in 1990. In March 2005, after a Florida state judge ordered Schiavo's feeding tube removed at the request of her husband, Congress quickly passed -- and on March 20, 2005, President Bush rushed to sign -- Republican-initiated legislation that allowed Schiavo's parents to have their case for keeping Schiavo alive heard anew in the federal courts. The federal courts refused to intervene, and Schiavo died on March 31, 2005.
In a March 17, 2005, statement about the Schiavo case, Bush said:
The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.
Then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan, at a press briefing that same day, used the same rationale in supporting congressional action:
Q: All right. On another subject, the United States Congress is -- seems poised to pass a piece of federal legislation in the case of Terri Schaivo to try and save her life. What is the president's position on it?
McCLELLAN: Well, the president has previously expressed his view on the case. The case raises complex issues. And the president believes our goal, as a nation, should be to build a culture of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and attention. And the president believes a society that is built on a culture of life ought to welcome, protect and value all individuals.
Q: So the president would sign such a piece of legislation if it came to him?
McCLELLAN: Well, the president stands on the side of defending life. In instances like this case, where there are serious questions and doubts raised, the president believes that our society and our laws and our courts ought to be on the side of presumption in favor of life. And we appreciate the efforts by members of Congress. The president's views will continue to be those that defend life.
In addition, as Media Matters for America noted at the time, several prominent conservatives said that liberals “want” Schiavo to die.
As Media Matters documented, polling from March 2005 found broad support across religious lines for the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube and against congressional intervention in the case. Additionally, a Pew Research Center poll conducted November 9-27, 2005, found that 72 percent of Americans believed Congress “should have stayed out” of the case, while 17 percent thought Congress “did [the] right thing.”
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
CAMERON: Look out, Rudy Giuliani: The new guy, Fred Thompson, is catching on fast in your must-win firewall state of Florida.
THOMPSON: You know, I've been down here hundreds of times, and I consider it to be my neck of the woods, as we would say back home. But Florida is extremely important.
CAMERON: So is a photo op and kind word, not to say endorsement yet, from Florida's popular governor, Charlie Crist.
CRIST: He's a good friend and making a great candidate. We've had a few great days already in the state of Florida.
CAMERON: The Sunshine State is key to Rudy Giuliani's strategy, as the biggest and most moderate among the early voting states. He's raised more money in Florida than any candidate in either party. Thompson has drawn his largest and most enthusiastic crowds yet in Florida. And after two weeks on the trail, he sounds almost cocky.
THOMPSON: I haven't run a whole lot of elections. But I've never lost one, and I don't plan on losing this one.
CAMERON: But he has stumbled on a handful of issues near and dear to Florida Republicans. Last week Thompson said he couldn't remember details of the controversial Terri Schiavo case, which pitted culture-of-life conservatives against right-to-die civil libertarians. And though most Floridians deeply oppose drilling for oil off Florida's delicate coast, he refuses to rule it out.
THOMPSON: I'm not going to start out by taking this, that, or the other off the table, in terms of our overall energy situation. We're going to have to do a lot of things better.