THE TWO AMERICAS! In Scarborough Country, viewers got worked by a brilliant Nobel nominee:
TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2005
THE TWO AMERICAS: What are the two Americas? In this mornings Washington Post, a front-page news story purports to list elementary facts in the Schiavo case. The reporter is Manuel Roig-Franzia:
ROIG-FRANZIA (3/22/05): Terri Schiavo, whose husband said she had bulimia, suffered severe brain damage after a potassium imbalance caused a heart attack in 1990. Her husband and her parents have been locked in a legal battle since 1998 that has bounced through at least a dozen and a half courtrooms...One America reads those facts. Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage as the result of a heart attack. But last night, visitors to Scarborough Country heard a different set of facts. Cable viewers live in one America, newspaper readers in another.
What did Scarborough viewers hear? Scarborough introduced a neurologist named William Hammesfahr—a man whom Scarborough twice described as a nominee for the Nobel Prize. And Hammesfahr, the brilliant Nobel nominee, completely contradicted Roig-Franzia. (Hammesfahr has provided expert testimony on behalf of Terri Schiavos parents.) Terri Schiavo did not have a heart attack, he said. She never had an eating disorder. And she isnt in a persistent vegetative state. In fact, according to Hammesfahr, Terri Schiavo can stand up or sit up and can sort of moan and make sounds that get [her] wishes known. Indeed, she follows a lot of commands, the brilliant Nobel nominee said. At one point, Hammesfahr and Scarborough even shared a good laugh about Terri Schiavos condition:
HAMMESFAHR (3/21/05): It`s interesting. She actually responds to people in different ways. When I went in initially, she acknowledged my presence and then ignored me, as she ignored her husband and she also ignored the videographer.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Playfully, Terri Schiavo had just ignored everybody! Just the way kids sometimes do!
Soon after, Hammesfahr gave his overall view of the case, which his host had summarized earlier in the program. According to Scarboroughs accurate summary, Hammesfahr says [Michael Schiavo] is pulling a huge hoax simply to kill his wife! If you live in non-cable America, you probably should read it in full:
SCARBOROUGH: Well, how did she get in this bad of a situation if she didn`t have a heart attack?What are the two Americas? If you read the Washington Post, you read about a woman who had a heart attack and suffered brain damage in the process. In Scarborough Country, you hear something else. You meet an impressive Nobel nominee—and he makes explosive allegations. He tells you she had no such heart attack. Instead, he suggests she was strangled by her husband.
These two Americas have existed for years. If you live in cable America, you routinely hear whole sets of things that never appear in the Washington Post, things that the Washington Post rarely attempts to discuss, describe or debate. Cable viewers live in one world; newspaper readers exist in another. Newspaper readers rarely hear whats being said in the other America. And for that reason, people who live in the cable America sometimes get played for plain fools.
Like last night, for example. Consider the impressive Hammesfahr, the brilliant Nobel Prize nominee. Heres what we found when we ran a search: Three years ago, David Sommer of the St. Petersburg Times reported that Hammesfahr advertises himself as a nominee for a Nobel Prize based on a letter his congressman wrote to the Nobel committee. Yes, Hammesfahr was nominated for the Nobel Prize by his Republican congressman, Peter Bilirakis, back in 1999! And uh-oh! In 2003, William Levesque of the St. Peterburg Times described more of Hammesfahrs brilliance:
LEVESQUE (10/25/03): In a 2002 order by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer ruling that Mrs. Schiavo could not recover, Greer labeled Hammesfahr a "self-promoter."Of course, viewers werent told that in Scarborough Country, just as they werent told that the brilliant experts Nobel nomination came from his local Republican hack. Weve lived in two Americas for years. This week has been no exception.
AND NOW FOR THE REST OF THE STORY: Does Terri Schiavo respond to commands, as cable America heard last night? In 2003, Stephen Nohlgren of the St. Petersburg Times reported on a Schiavo court hearing. Tapes had been played in court. In the tapes, a Nobel nominee tried to elicit response:
NOHLGREN (11/10/03): The single most dramatic moment occurred when William Hammesfahr, a Clearwater neurologist picked by the Schindlers, asked Schiavo to open her eyes.In cable America, viewers werent asked to hear about that. Hustlers like Scarborough know a good story. And they know facts can mess such tales up.