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A letter to WorldNetDaily

The following letter was e-mailed to WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah:

March 26, 2005

Dear Mr. Farah:

I see that WorldNetDaily is promoting a March 24 article by news editor Diana Lynne, "The whole Terri Schiavo story," as a "comprehensive analysis" of the Terri Schiavo case and is linking to it from other WorldNetDaily stories about the case, describing it as "background on the 15-year saga."

The claim that Lynne's article is "comprehensive" and "the whole story" is inaccurate because Lynne does not fairly report on all aspects of the Schiavo case. Rather, she reflects the biases of the "extensive archive" of WorldNetDaily stories she apparently relied on to write the article, which have been consistent in their support of the Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and in their criticism of Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo.

Here are some examples of factual information that is missing from Lynne's article that make it less than comprehensive:

  • Lynne describes Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who examined Terri Schiavo, as a "Nobel Prize nominee." This is a false claim promoted by Hammesfahr himself; it is based on a letter written by a congressman, but congressmen are not eligible to make valid Nobel Prize nominations.
  • Lynne fails to describe the Christian activist background of Schindler attorney David Gibbs III, though she details the background of George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo.
  • Lynne fails to examine the finances of the Schindlers' campaign to save their daughter, though she details spending associated with the malpractice award fund controlled by Michael Schiavo.
  • The article contains a photo credited to Gary McCullough, but Lynne fails to note that McCullough is a spokesman for the Schindler family and was a media consultant for a convicted murderer, Paul Hill.
  • Lynne does not provide Michael Schiavo's side of a 1994 incident in which a "do not resuscitate" order was placed on Terri Schiavo, though she repeats Bob Schindler's description of the incident.
  • Lynne fails to describe Michael Schiavo's efforts in the years immediately following Terri Schiavo's collapse to try to rehabilitate her. As guardian ad litem Jay Wolfson stated in a 2003 report, "the evidence is incontrovertible that he gave his heart and soul to her treatment and care."
  • Lynne notes that "the Schindlers argue, on the basis of his admitted adultery ... that Michael Schiavo has a conflict of interest and is unfit to serve as Terri's legal guardian," but as Wolfson points out in his report, "[i]t took Michael a long time to consider the prospect of getting on with his life -- something he was actively encouraged to do by the Schindlers. ... He was even encouraged by the Schindlers to date, and introduced his in-law family to women he was dating."

In order to make Lynne's story a more accurate account, WorldNetDaily has two options: It can either add the above-cited facts, among others, so that the article truly provides "the whole story," or it can change only the headline to reflect the fact that the article is not a "comprehensive analysis" of the Schiavo case. Either change, of course, would need to be fully disclosed to readers. As it currently stands, such a biased and incomplete article does not live up to WorldNetDaily's stated promise to be "an exponent of truth and justice, an uncompromising disseminator of news."

I hope you do not disappoint your readers, who deserve nothing less than the full truth from a news organization that is genuinely committed to it.


Terry Krepel
Editor, ConWebWatch

cc: Diana Lynne, News Editor, WorldNetDaily

* * *

Dear Mr. Krepel,

Thank you for your excellent suggestions. I have made edits to the article,
largely embracing your recommended changes/additions.

Specifically, I removed the "Nobel nominee" reference to Hammesfahr (I had actually pulled that out early yesterday morning); I added information on the the Christian activist background of the Schindlers' defense team; The Gary McCullough photo was swapped for another and a new reference to McCullough properly identifies him as the family spokesperson; I have added more details about the first two years after Terri's collapse, including Schiavo's efforts to seek treatment in California; and I provided Michael Schiavo's testimony explaining the 1993 untreated urinary tract infection.

We appreciate your readership.

Best regards,

Diana Lynne
News Editor

* * *

Dear Ms. Lynne:

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. The items you added to the article do help provide a more balanced view of the case, though it still remains undeniably tilted toward the Schindlers and against Michael Schiavo.

I am curious, though, as to why you have made the decision not to provide any background at all on Dr. William Hammesfahr and Gary McCullough. Dr. Hammesfahr's specious claim to be a "Nobel Prize nominee" has been made regularly by other media outlets, as well as in previous WorldNetDaily stories, so instead of deleting any reference to it, debunking that claim ought to be a function of a "comprehensive" article. Same with Gary McCullough -- his background as a media adviser to a convicted murderer should be told to your readers as well, especially since the article is already heavy on details about the background of Michael Schiavo's supporters.

I appreciate the work you have done on the article, and I believe WorldNetDaily's readers do as well. I hope that you will refine the article further and make it a genuinely balanced piece that truly tells the "whole story" of Terri Schiavo.


Terry Krepel
Editor, ConWebWatch

* * *

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Posted 3/26/2005
Updated 3/27/2005

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