CBS Boosts 'Sharp Response' to Pope From Mother of Euthanasia Advocate

Wednesday's CBS This Morning played up how "the Vatican is under fire from the mother of a woman who ended her own life." Jan Crawford's spotlighted Deborah Ziegler's "sharply-worded letter" to opponents of euthanasia, especially Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. Ziegler's daughter, Brittany Maynard, committed suicide on November 1, 2014, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and became the face of the pro-euthanasia movement during her final days.

Anchor Gayle King teased Crawford's report by pointing out that "Maynard's mom fights back, after a top Vatican official criticized her daughter's decision." Co-anchor Norah O'Donnell led into the segment by highlighting that "Brittany Maynard's mother says criticism from the Roman Catholic Church caused unspeakable pain." [video below]

Crawford first noted that "the Pope, on Saturday, called euthanasia a sin against God. And that follows comments earlier this month from a high-ranking Vatican official, who talked specifically about Brittany and condemned her decision." She added that "on Tuesday, Brittany's mother delivered a sharp response."

The CBS correspondent continued by playing two clips from her October14, 2014 interview of Maynard:

BRITTANY MAYNARD (from October 14, 2014 interview): I'm not ashamed to attach my name to what I think is a right that should belong to all terminally-ill Americans – I really do.

JAN CRAWFORD (voice-over): When we talked last month to Brittany Maynard, she was preparing to take her life and death into her own hands. Brittany was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and decided to die – as she put it – with dignity, instead of letting the disease slowly kill her.

CRAWFORD (on-camera, from October 14, 2014 interview): So, to the people who would say – well, you're choosing to end your life – that's suicide – you would say, no – it's what?

MAYNARD: No. Cancer is ending my life. I am choosing to end it a little sooner, and in a lot less pain and suffering.

CRAWFORD (voice-over): Brittany made that choice on November 1 – surrounded by her family.

It should be pointed out that Crawford didn't include any soundbites from anti-euthanasia activists during her report.

The journalist spent most of the second half of her report on the statements from Pope Francis and Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, and Ziegler's rebuke of the Church leaders (along with other euthanasia opponents):

CRAWFORD: ...On Saturday, Pope Francis denounced the right-to-die movement – calling euthanasia a 'sin against God the Creator.' Those comments follow those of a senior Vatican official condemning Brittany's decision. In an interview with an Italian news agency, the Catholic Church's top official on ethics in biology and medicine said, 'Assisted suicide is an absurdity. Dignity is something different to putting an end to your own life' – adding, 'Society does not want to shoulder the cost of disease, and this risks becoming the solution.'

Brittany's mother, Deborah, responded to the Vatican and other critics Tuesday in a strongly-worded letter posted online: 'Such strong public criticism from people we do not know – have never met – is more than a slap in the face. It's like kicking us as we struggle to draw a breath.' It continued, 'The right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue – plain and simple. The imposition of belief on a human rights issue is wrong.'

Near the end of the segment, Crawford played a clip from the activist's mother, who "told us she had come to terms with her daughter's choice." However, she failed to mention a detail from her own October 14, 2014 interview – that both Maynard and her mother indicated that the parent initially opposed the suicide decision:

CRAWFORD: Did you have any pushback from your mother or your family?

MAYNARD: I think it took my family a little while to realize that this is what made sense, because no one wants to hear that their daughter is going to die. No mother should have to lose a child., and it goes against the grain of nature.


DEBORAH ZIEGLER: Early on, I told her, 'It would be my honor to take care of you whichever way. If you need to be fed or diapered, it would be my honor.'

CRAWFORD: Because that's what mothers do – we take care of your little girl.

ZIEGLER: That was important for me – for her to know.

The journalist's report was the first time that CBS mentioned Pope Francis's condemnation of euthanasia during an on-air report. The network's morning and evening newscasts on Saturday and Sunday, along with those of NBC, ignored the pontiff's pro-life remarks on Saturday.

Back on October 8, 2014, CBS This Morning aired a similarly one-sided segment, after Maynard posted her first pro-euthanasia video online. Anchor Charlie Rose praised the "powerful" video, while O'Donnell and King complimented the terminally-ill woman for her decision. After Maynard committed suicide, King lauded the "beautiful, brave young woman" on the November 3, 2014 edition of the morning show.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.