On Special Report, Barnes misstated Lieberman's views on Terri Schiavo case

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On Fox News' Special Report, Fred Barnes misrepresented Sen. Joseph Lieberman's position on legislation that allowed the federal government to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Barnes claimed that Lieberman said only that "he would have allowed her to keep ... the feeding tube in." But on Meet the Press in 2005, Lieberman couched the issue in terms of what the law required, not what he would personally do if put in a situation similar to Schiavo's family: Congress' involvement in the case "was justified" because "as a matter of law, if you go -- particularly to the 14th Amendment, [a person] can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law."

On the August 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes misrepresented the public position taken by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (CT) on last year's Republican-initiated congressional legislation that allowed the federal government to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Barnes claimed that Lieberman said only that "if it were left up to him, he would have allowed her to keep ... the feeding tube in." In fact, while appearing on the March 27, 2005, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Lieberman went beyond simply expressing the view that he would have "allowed her to keep ... the feeding tube in," couching the issue in terms of what the law required, not what he would personally do if put in a situation similar to Schiavo's family and defending the bill passed by Congress to give the courts jurisdiction: Congress' involvement in the case "was justified" because "as a matter of law, if you go -- particularly to the 14th Amendment, [a person] can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law."

Reporting on the passage of legislation allowing the federal courts to hear the Schiavo case, The New York Times noted the leadership of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) in the effort. The Times article also quoted DeLay urging Congress to approve the legislation, saying: "Every hour is incredibly important for Terri Schiavo." On Meet the Press in March 2005, Lieberman echoed DeLay, asserting that Congress offered Schiavo an "opportunity for one more chance before her life was terminated by an act which was sanctioned by a court, by the state," adding that "the family member who wants to sustain her life ought to have that right because the judge really doesn't know, though he heard the facts, one judge, what Terri Schiavo wanted. He made a best guess based on the evidence before him. That's not enough when you're talking about aggressively removing food and water to end someone's life."

From the August 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

CHRIS WALLACE (guest host): Does Lamont's victory push Democrats across the country to the left on the war on Iraq, and is that, in fact, such a bad posture for the party to be in come November?

BARNES: Well, I think -- it's not so much pushing them as it is indicating where they're going. And it is very indicative, particularly dumping Joe Lieberman. I mean, he's not just any Democrat. You know, he was the vice-presidential running mate to Al Gore in 2000. Why was he brought on the ticket? One of the reasons was that he's a hawkish, pro-Israel Democrat. That -- that's what was deemed in -- only six years ago to help the ticket. Now that's regarded as something Democrats want to get rid of. He really is, as he described himself, the last remnant of this whole FDR, [late Sen.] Henry Jackson [D-WA], JFK, you know, hawkish Democrats on national security, that whole tradition. He's the last one. Democrats have rejected it. And particularly this guy who is the number one Democrat, probably the foremost pro-Israel Democrat among other things, and they've tossed him aside. That is very meaningful. It tells you where the party is.

WILLIAMS: I think -- wait a second. I think you're rewriting history.

BARNES: No, I'm not.

WILLIAMS: The reason that he was brought on that Gore ticket was because he had been critical of, guess who, Bill Clinton, a fellow Democrat.

BARNES: I don't think that was it.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it was. It was exactly right. It was to insulate Gore and to say, "You know what? We're moving in a different direction of this man that was caught in scandal." And you also have to remember that Joe Lieberman, much as we all admire him, was a guy who sided with the Republican leadership on Terri Schiavo. You know, Joe Lieberman --

BARNES: No, no, what he said was that if it were left up to him, he would have allowed her to keep -- kept the feeding tube in. He didn't endorse the rest of that.

From the March 27, 2005, edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, your Republican colleague from Connecticut in the House, Christopher Shays, had this to say. "This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. ... There are going to be repercussions from this vote [on Schiavo's constitutional rights]. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

You agree with that?

LIEBERMAN: I don't. But that's a very credible and respectable opinion for Chris to take. See, I think -- and Chris was there on the floor of the House, so maybe he heard in the debate some things that I didn't hear following it from a distance. The fact is that, though I know a lot of people's attitude toward the Schiavo case and other matters is affected by their faith and their sense of what religion tells them about morality, ultimately as members of Congress, as judges, as members of the Florida state Legislature, this is a matter of law. And the law exists to express our values.

I have been saying this in speeches to students about why getting involved in government is so important, I always say the law is where we define the beginning of life and the end of life, and that's exactly what was going on here. And I think as a matter of law, if you go -- particularly to the 14th Amendment, can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law, that though the Congress' involvement here was awkward, unconventional, it was justified to give this woman, more than her parents or husband, the opportunity for one more chance before her life was terminated by an act which was sanctioned by a court, by the state.

These are very difficult decisions, but -- of course, if you ask me what I would do if I was the Florida Legislature or any state legislature, I'd say that if somebody doesn't have a living will and the next of kin disagree on whether the person should be kept alive or that is whether food and water should be taken away and her life ended that really the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to life. And the family member who wants to sustain her life ought to have that right because the judge really doesn't know, though he heard the facts, one judge, what Terri Schiavo wanted. He made a best guess based on the evidence before him. That's not enough when you're talking about aggressively removing food and water to end someone's life.

RUSSERT: You would have kept the tube in?

LIEBERMAN: I would have kept the tube in.

Posted In
Health Care, End of Life Issues
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Fred Barnes
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
Stories/Interests
Terri Schiavo
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