Sitting in for Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham gave Jeri Thompson a powder puff interview on Tuesday night but it won't be enough to save her husband, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson. "Fred Dead?" was a topic on Brit Hume's Fox News show, which aired earlier in the evening. Thompson is dead politically mainly because of his flip-flops and incredible lack of knowledge and sensitivity on the right-to-life issue.
In contrast to Thompson's descent into oblivion, headlines in Wednesday newspapers are proclaiming that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is on the rise, surging past Thompson and Rudy Giuliani to second place in a poll of likely Republican Iowa Caucus voters. He is only four points behind Mitt Romney.
Gary Langer of the ABC News polling unit says that "The surge for Huckabee is remarkable in size and intensity alike. He's attracted not just support but enthusiastic support, from core Republican groups including conservatives, evangelicals and strong abortion opponents."
There can be no doubt that Thompson's flip-flops on the right to life and the Terri Schiavo case, as examined in several of my columns, have been extremely detrimental to his candidacy. He is registering at only four percent in New Hampshire, even behind Ron Paul.
The latest installment of this seemingly never-ending saga was Thompson's November 18 interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which the former Senator said "I didn't know that," but concurred when told by Stephanopoulos that Terri Schiavo, who was starved to death in 2005 by her estranged husband, was "brain dead" and that autopsies had proven that. The implication was that she didn't deserve to live.
Thompson's exact comments were "I didn't know that, you know, at the time that was all kicking around and everybody was asking my opinion based on what was in the newspaper."
Perhaps this is a big part of the problem. Thompson gives opinions based on what's in the newspaper, without doing adequate research or checking out the facts for himself. Making matters worse, he seemed to take Stephanopoulos's word for it that Schiavo was brain dead.
The truth is that Schiavo was brain damaged not brain dead and the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation has asked Stephanopoulos to correct the record. Considering the lack of standards in the major media these days, it's doubtful that ABC News will issue a correction. But Thompson, if he wants to have any credibility left on the pro-life issue, should quickly do so.
Terri's brother Bobby says the "brain dead" comment is not only patently false but offensive.
In a news release, Bobby Schindler said, "Brain death is an authentic diagnosis, not some catch phrase that should be loosely used based upon a 'summary of widespread response' or opinions that have been written about my sister. We are requesting that the media take a few minutes to research the facts regarding Terri's case and, more importantly, her condition. In doing so they would learn that not one doctor ever diagnosed Terri as being 'brain-dead.' This includes those who wrote her autopsy report. All of this information is easily available and accessible."
Schindler added, "This has been a major problem with the mainstream mediaÂ¯not just that they are writing that Terri was brain dead, but how they continue to inaccurately and irresponsibly report blatant falsehoods regarding my sister's condition."
The foundation's press release noted that "Schiavo's autopsy itself proved that, prior to her death, she was never dying, was physically healthy and would have lived a long life had she not been dehydrated over a period of two weeks. Furthermore, the autopsy was unable to determine whether or not Terri was actually in a persistent vegetative state, as her estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, and his attorney claimed in their quest to have her killed."
Unfortunately, Laura Ingraham blew the opportunity to ask Thompson's wife Jeri about these matters when she guest-hosted The O'Reilly Factor on November 20. Ingraham, a fervent right-to-lifer, highlighted the Thompson endorsement by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) but failed to question the candidate's flip-flops or record. Ingraham commented, "He also got the big endorsement from the National Right to Life to which Mike Huckabee, who considers himself strongly pro-life, said he was taken aback by that which I found interesting." She went on to ask Jeri Thompson about managing her involvement in the campaign as a wife and mother.
The phrase "considers himself strongly pro-life" should apply to Thompson, especially after his flip-flops and controversial claims over the last several weeks. Huckabee wasn't the only one taken aback by the NRLC's endorsement of Thompson, especially in view of the fact that Thompson had voted for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform measure that would have muzzled the views of NRLC. This is the issue that gave Thompson only an 86 percent pro-life voting record. The only "interesting" part of this entire controversy is the failure by Ingraham to follow-up on these critical matters. Viewers and listeners were depending on her to help set the record straight.
But some pro-lifers have followed up. Prolifeblogs.com commented, "Clearly the National Right to Life Committee attempted to tutor Fred Thompson between his November 4 interview on Meet the Press and November 18 interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. But NRLC failed. On three major pro-life issues, Thompson continued to frankly stink. And on one he dug his hole deeper."
This was mainly a reference to Thompson's claim to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" that the Schiavo case was an end-of-life issue and his subsequent "clarification" to NRLC that she deserved the benefit of the doubt and should have been allowed to live. He seemed to reverse himself again in the interview with Stephanopoulos.
Despite these controversies, including his support for McCain-Feingold, it is now being reported that Thompson is telling Iowa voters in a direct mail piece that he is the candidate with the "consistent" and 100 percent pro-life voting record.
If voters buy that whopper, they're brain dead.