Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume downplayed President Bush's actions in the Terri Schiavo case by saying that “his [Bush's] intervention consisted mostly of a signature and some statements from the White House.” Hume significantly understated the leading role the president and his staff played in the case.
Hume's statement, made while serving as guest host on the March 27 edition of Fox News Sunday, ignores the unusual and highly publicized actions of Bush on the night of March 20. Beyond the signature itself -- enacting unprecedented legislation -- news reports noted the extraordinary steps Bush took to provide that signature as soon as possible after Congress passed the bill. As the Associated Press reported on March 21, “President Bush's dash back to the White House to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case put him squarely in the center of a wrenching drama with political, medical and legal overtones.” A March 21 New York Times article noted that Bush “made the rare decision to interrupt his Texas vacation and rush back to Washington to be in place to sign a bill that could restore Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube,” and that “the White House said that the issue had become one of 'defending life,' and that time was of the essence.” The article further noted that "[Bush's] dramatic return was seen as a powerful embrace of the 'culture of life' issues of religious conservatives who helped him win the White House in 2004." The Washington Times noted on March 21 that “Mr. Bush came back to Washington last night from his ranch in Texas expressly to sign the measure into law immediately upon the House giving its approval.”
In addition, the Bush administration helped to write the legislation that Congress passed and Bush signed, and the Justice Department filed legal arguments in federal court supporting Terri Schiavo's parents' efforts to get her feeding tube reconnected, according to a March 22 New York Times article.
Fox News itself has pointed out the extraordinary nature of Bush's actions, as correspondent Julie Banderas noted during the March 22 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren: “Also inside just now, you know, the protesters out here calling on President Bush, as if he hasn't done enough, and he certainly -- him cutting his trip short in Crawford, Texas, was absolutely unprecedented.”
Additionally, Hume's characterization of “some statements from the White House” ignored comments by the president at an event in Tucson, Arizona, to promote Social Security. As the March 22 Times article noted: “Appearing before hundreds of supporters here, Mr. Bush praised Congress for 'voting to give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life.' The declaration was met with roars from the supportive Republican crowd.”
From the March 27 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
HUME: I want to take you first into this question of the Terri Schiavo case. I want to look at a couple of poll numbers that are fresh. They are not inconsistent with other polls on this issue.
Time magazine has done some polling on the politics of the Schiavo case. Seventy-five percent in the Time poll say wrong for Congress to intervene. Seventy percent similarly say wrong for the president to intervene, although I guess his intervention consisted mostly of a signature and some statements from the White House.