Accuracy in Media today questioned the authenticity of the much-publicized “GOP Talking Points” memo on the Terri Schiavo case. The document has been seized upon by ABC news, the Washington Post, CBS News and other media to accuse Republicans of having partisan motives in trying to save Terri Schiavo. Cliff Kincaid, editor of AIM, said that the major media should explain how they verified the document and why they believe it is authentic. He said evidence suggests that the memo may have been manufactured as part of an effort to make Republicans look bad.
Top Republican officials, including Senator Bill Frist, have denounced the content of the memo, which was said by the media to have circulated among Republican Senators. Even though Majority Leader Frist said that he had not seen it, the Post claimed it had been “distributed to Republican senators by party leaders.” The document, which is unsigned, anonymous and has no letterhead, talks about the Schiavo case in the context of energizing the GOP’s pro-life base, being “a great political issue,” and making Democrats, especially Florida Senator Bill Nelson, uncomfortable.
Kincaid said that it appears that three sentences from the memo were lifted from a March 8 press release on the Schiavo case issued by the office of Senator Mel Martinez. The Martinez release had none of the political points and Martinez aide Kerry Feehery said she didn’t know where those controversial references came from. “It wasn’t us,” she told AIM. “We have no association with it whatsoever.”
The Martinez March 8 release had been posted on the web site of the Traditional Values Coalition, where it could have been easily copied and then altered. James Lafferty, a consultant to the group, believes that a liberal political operative took parts of the Martinez release, added the political references, and then pawned it off to the media as an official GOP Senate document. “I see it as a dirty trick,” Lafferty told AIM. The New York Times confirmed that Democratic aides had “passed out” the controversial memo “that they said had been distributed to Senate Republicans.” Lafferty said that he had access to all the memos on the Schiavo case coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill and that the much-publicized “GOP Talking Points” memo that the media seized upon never came to his attention. “We’ve seen other talking points from other conservative groups as well and none of them had any of this political stuff,” he said.
“Shame on the media” for reporting the dubious memo, said Lafferty. “Unless they’ve got another source they haven’t told us about, what they’ve reported is unquestioning acceptance of a piece of paper. As CBS learned recently, you cannot trust a piece of paper without verifying what’s on it.”
Accuracy In Media (AIM) is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.