Rove falsely claimed Obama admin. pushing vets toward "assisted suicide"

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Continuing Fox News' pattern of falsely suggesting that the Obama administration is pressuring veterans to end their lives prematurely, Karl Rove claimed that the Veterans Health Administration is directing veterans to an end-of-life educational booklet, "Your Life, Your Choices," that includes contact information for "a group that believes in assisted suicide," and thus "the kind of guidance we're giving returning veterans" is "you ought to go to an assisted suicide group." In fact, that group is not referenced in the current version of the document, a fact that Jim Towey -- who originated the smear of the booklet as a "death book" -- acknowledged in interview on Fox News Sunday.

From the August 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

ROVE: There's an interesting page in here. Page 99 lists a series of disease groups that people could reach out to as resources. But when it comes to advanced directives -- what to do at your end of your life to give guidance to your physician and your family -- it lists one group, Compassionate -- Compassionate Choices. And it gives their phone number and their log site. What they don't tell you, however, is that that really is the name of [...] the Hemlock Society that is referenced there. This is a group that believes in assisted suicide.

[...]

But, you know, look, it's amazing that the government would have an ideologue like Dr. Pearlman, who wrote these books, who is a witness in assisted suicide cases, who writes in the resources that you have to -- that he has in this book -- that you ought to go to an assisted suicide group. That's the kind of guidance we're giving returning veterans?

Rove claimed booklet says vets "ought to go to an assisted suicide group"

Rove claimed "Compassionate Choices" a.k.a. "the Hemlock Society" referenced on "Page 99." Rove asserted that, concerning guidance on advanced directives, "Your Life, Your Choices" "lists one group ... Compassionate Choices [sic]," which "is a group that believes in assisted suicide." He added that "it gives their phone number and their log site." [Hannity, 8/24/09]

Booklet doesn't reference Compassion and Choices, Hemlock Society

Booklet contains no reference to Compassion and Choices or the Hemlock Society. Contrary to Rove's claim, the current version of the booklet as posted on the VA's website does not reference either group, nor does it provide "their phone number and their log site." ["Your Life, Your Choices"]

Towey admitted Compassion and Choices reference "pulled" from 2007 edition of booklet during Bush administration. During his Fox News Sunday interview, Towey alleged of "Your Life, Your Choices" that "[t]he 2007 edition said go to Compassion Choices [sic]. That's the Hemlock Society." After host Chris Wallace stated that "we need to point out that those references which were in ... the 2007 edition are not in the edition that is currently being circulated at the Veterans Administration," Towey acknowledged that "they pulled that page after we raised concerns about it." [Fox News Sunday, 8/23/09] Media Matters for America has documented that Towey, who originated the smear that "Your Life, Your Choices" is a "death book," has advanced numerous false claims about the VA's booklet and has a financial interest in undermining it.

There is no "Page 99" of "Your Life, Your Choices." In fact, the current version of the booklet as posted on the VA's website only contains 51 numbered pages. ["Your Life, Your Choices"]

Rove's "assisted suicide" claim advances smear that VA is pushing vets to end their lives

Rove: "[T]he book is designed to encourage people towards a certain direction, which is to give up and accept pain." Rove claimed that the booklet "encourages" veterans to "give up and accept pain" and later added that the book says "you ought to go to an assisted suicide group." [Hannity, 8/24/09]

"Your Life, Your Choices" is not a "death book." The booklet emphasizes that "your wishes will direct future health care decisions" and presents preserving one's life "using any means possible" as an option to consider. An August 23 post by VoteVets.org blogger Richard Smith criticized Towey's assertion that "Your Life, Your Choices" presents "end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions," writing: "Really, if the document was really trying to get veterans to pull the plug on themselves, then first suggesting to them that their life should be prolonged at all costs is a pretty stupid way to do it" [emphasis in original].

Rove, Hannity, Earhardt falsely claim Bush "jerked down," "got rid of," "suspended" handbook

From the August 24 edition of Hannity:

AINSLEY EARHARDT (Fox News correspondent): Jim Towey, the former director of faith-based initiatives during the Bush administration, says after the Bush White House looked at how this book was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA decided to suspend its use. He says the document has now been revived under the current Obama administration.

[...]

HANNITY: This -- this book came out in 1997 -- "Your Life, Your Choices." It's 52 pages. They use it at VA hospitals and nursing homes. Bush administration got wind of it; they got rid of it.

ROVE: Yeah --

HANNITY: Obama brought it back. Tell me --

ROVE: Right. Deputy chief -- deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan and domestic policy adviser Karl Zinsmeister, when alerted to this thing, worked tirelessly to get this quickly removed and killed and deep-sixed. And it's been brought back by the Obama administration. [...] It was jerked down by the Bush administration. It should not have been revived by the Obama administration.

In fact, Bush's VA added language to VA handbook promoting the booklet. Contrary to Rove, Hannity, and Earhardt's claims that the Bush administration stopped using the booklet and that the Obama administration "revived" it, Bush's VA actually promoted the document throughout his presidency, as documented by Daily Kos blogger Jed Lewison.

Bush's VA made "Your Life, Your Choices" booklet publicly available. Bush's VA made the document available to the public throughout his presidency, as Lewison documented.

Obama White House: under Bush, booklet available through government document websites. "The print version of Your Life, Your Choices was made available to patients in the Seattle area, but was never distributed nationally to Veteran patients, except that it was publicly available to VHA facilities through government document websites." [White House "Fact Sheet" on "Your Life, Your Choices," 8/25/2009 (via Greg Sargent)]

Fox News repeatedly pushed smear that booklet pressures vets to end lives prematurely

Rove is latest to fearmonger about alleged "death book." Media Matters has documented that numerous Fox News hosts and correspondents have advanced the false claim that the Obama administration is pressuring veterans to end their lives prematurely through use of "Your Life, Your Choices," including Chris Wallace, Sean Hannity, legal analyst Shannon Bream, host Megyn Kelly, and correspondent James Rosen.

Transcript

From the August 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Now a controversy is brewing over a so-called planning tool that is issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Now some, including Senator Arlen Specter, say that it promotes pulling the plug on our brave veterans.

Now Ainsley Earhardt is here with much more -- Ainsley.

EARHARDT: Sean, it's a document called, "Your Life, Your Choices." It's used by the Veterans Administration to help people make choices about their living wills and end-of-life care. This booklet was first published back in 1997, then later promoted as the VA's preferred living will guide.

Jim Towey, the former director of faith-based initiatives during the Bush administration, says after the Bush White House looked at how this book was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA decided to suspend its use. He says the document has now been revived under the current Obama administration.

[...]

HANNITY: And joining me now with more on this story is Fox News contributor, former Bush adviser, Karl Rove.

Mr. Architect, good to see you, sir. Thank you for being here. Now --

ROVE: Hi, Sean.

HANNITY: -- this -- this book came out in 1997 -- "Your Life, Your Choices." It's 52 pages. They use it at VA hospitals and nursing homes. Bush administration got wind of it; they got rid of it.

ROVE: Yeah --

HANNITY: Obama brought it back. Tell me --

ROVE: Right. Deputy chief -- deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan and domestic policy adviser Karl Zinsmeister, when alerted to this thing, worked tirelessly to get this quickly removed and killed and deep-sixed. And it's been brought back by the Obama administration, and we've been delivered here in the last couple of days. A lot of gobbledygook about them. You just heard from Ainsley about it, where they say, oh, it's not an official document. But it's on their website, and they give it to returning veterans.

Tammy Duckworth on Sunday on Fox News Sunday said, well, it's -- we've withdrawn the document. But it's still on their website. I mean, this is a lousy piece of material. It was jerked down by the Bush administration. It should not have been revived by the Obama administration.

HANNITY: You know, it's funny, what Governor Palin and the power that she had, you know, with one Facebook blog about death panels. She really defined the debate, because this is the type of thing that we do see with countries that have socialized medicine. For example, they put a price on the years of productivity and how much they'll spend on health care in Europe.

So this should be a real concern for people as we debate this, shouldn't it?

ROVE: Absolutely. And look, the book is designed to encourage people towards a certain direction, which is to give up and accept pain.

In fact, you know what? There's an interesting page in here. Page 99 lists a series of disease groups that people could reach out to as resources. But when it comes to advanced directives -- what to do at your end of your life to give guidance to your physician and your family -- it lists one group, Compassionate -- Compassionate Choices. And it gives their phone number and their log site.

What they don't tell you, however, is that that really is the name of -- and I've got a high-tech graphic here from the Fox graphics department. That is the Hemlock Society that is referenced there. This is a group that believes in assisted suicide. The Veterans Administration --

HANNITY: Wait, could you put that back up?

ROVE: Yeah, look at that. Isn't that special?

HANNITY: Did you draw that --

ROVE: A lot of time and energy went into that.

HANNITY: Did you draw that --

ROVE: See it's got a little glass of poison over there for you.

HANNITY: I was going to ask you, did you draw that little glass of poison?

ROVE: Well, look, the Fox high-tech graphics department did that. The Austin branch -- down here in Austin tonight.

But, you know, look, it's amazing that the government would have an ideologue like Dr. Pearlman, who wrote these books, who is a witness in assisted suicide cases, who writes in the resources that you have to -- that he has in this book -- that you ought to go to an assisted suicide group. That's the kind of guidance we're giving returning veterans?

And I've got to tell you, people ought to read this document. It is a scary -- if you're not worried about government health care, you read this book, and you will be.

Posted In
Health Care, End of Life Issues, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Ainsley Earhardt
Show/Publication
Hannity
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