Another religious freedom case?

Want to see the difference between the MSM and the new “niche” news sites? Then take a look at these stories about Krishna Rajanna and the closing of his Affordable Medical and Surgical Services business in Kansas City, Kan.

Reports about abortion are almost always full of controversial details. But click here to read a mainstream story about this case, then click here to read a report posted at one of the alternative Christian news sites. Note the crucial missing detail.

Now, before you decide that folks at the the “niche” news site have lost their minds, note this piece (PDF) of documentation from a witness in the case. And one more question: Is Planned Parenthood v. Casey relevant to this case?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Peter Nicholson

    Here’s a no-reg link to an AP story with the same info, and lack thereof:

    http://www.columbiatribune.com/2005/Jun/20050612News012.asp

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/tj9582/ Tim J.

    That particular detail is a huge omission, but even without that the differences between the two stories is overwhelming.

    Compare “A board inspector made two surprise visits in March to Rajanna’s clinic, reporting that the facility was unclean and that Rajanna and his staff kept syringes of medications in an unlocked refrigerator. The inspector also reported finding a dead mouse in the hallway.” with
    “There were dirty dishes in the sink and on the tabletop, trash everywhere, and roaches crawling across the countertops, with a smell of a stench in the room. Frankly I was reluctant to sit down”

  • http://accidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    That “lunch” omission is a doozy. Makes me sick to just read it. You’d think, as much as the MSM loves sensationalistic details like that, they’d have leapt on it. But then, we’re talking about an abortionist, aren’t we?

  • Philip

    a microwaved fetus stirred into lunch? Please. I don’t believe it for a minute. Does tmatt really consider LifeSite a credible alternative to MSM? Are we to believe that LifeSite doesn’t have it’s own biases?

  • Philip

    As for the testimony by the detective as to what he claimed to see firsthand, it sounds as though the state authorities acted on it. The MSM got it right, and without all the unsubstatiated details LifeSite chose to include.

  • http://people.hws.edu/domoore Circuitloss

    Seriously tmatt, you need to take some of these sources with a grain of salt. This crap sounds like a recycled urban legend heard from some “eyewitnesses” that lifesite choose to speak with. Dirty, unsafe, unsanity for sure, but let’s not give credence where credence isn’t due.

  • http://www.e-skojec.com Steve Skojec


    World Net Daily
    picked up the same story, with similar details.

    I don’t know what kind of source corroboration is going on here, but that’s two reports of the same “fact”.

  • http://www.xanga.com/branthansen Brant

    Speaking of giving “credence” where it isn’t due: Why extend it to the MSM here?

    Sorry, that benefit-of-the-doubt horse has left the barn. Thank your local Newsweek editor, CBS anchor, Reuters reporter, NYTimes star…

    The Casey reference is a good one, and certainly relevant, if, in fact, the Doc did this. Justice Kennedy and Co. would surely have to find that he’s merely exercising his clear constitutional right to define his own life meanings.

    First: moralist laws restricting what doctors can and can’t eat. Then: unbridled theocracy, right?

  • Megan B.

    After reading through whatever I could find out there on this case, no one seems to have any more evidence for the cannibalism than the allegations of one witness. If any of the “others” she claims also saw the cannibalism have stepped forward, I can’t find a record of it. I personally think that qualifies as insufficient evidence to broadcast such a sensational accusation.

    At the very least I would argue that the emphasis on the cannibalism allegations in the LifeSite piece is pretty dodgy. (Even the headline misleadingly implies that he lost his license due to the cannibalism allegations, which does not seem to be true.) I assume/hope this article was not being presented as a valid alternative, merely as a way to point out the missing detail, which perhaps should have been at least mentioned in the MSM article? This kind of sensationalistic journalism would be roundly condemned if the subject were, for instance, a church leader accused of sexual misconduct in such a fashion.

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    I agree with Meagen B.

    Next LifeSite and World Net Daily will be reporting that teenage fornicators in automobiles face risks from insane man with hook for a hand. The fetus cannibalism trope is an urban legend.

  • Marion R.

    “This kind of sensationalistic journalism would be roundly condemned if the subject were, for instance, a church leader accused of sexual misconduct in such a fashion.”

    Huh?

  • Megan B.

    I just mean that if someone accused a church leader of sexual misconduct and there was as little evidence supporting the allegations, people would be correctly complaining left and right about articles presenting it with the tone of the LifeSite piece.

  • http://www.e-skojec.com Steve Skojec

    As someone at Open Book pointed out, the cannibalism deal is not wild conjecture, but contained in a sworn deposition, and recorded in the archives of the Kansas Legislature.

    An accusation of that magnitude bears reporting, and can hardly be classified as irresponsible journalism or mere sensationalism.

  • AlyD

    If I, as a reporter, came across such a record in the Kansas Legislature archives, my first thought would be, “Wow, what a gullible, possibly racist cop this must be to believe something so outlandish.”
    You don’t take the word of someone else and repeat it as fact while giving testimony, especially something so abhorent, unless you think it helps achieve your end, in this case shutting down the clinic.
    I don’t know; it just feels like the cop said, in his mind, “Dang foreigner, of course he keeps a dirty place, of course he eats babies.”
    Or not.

  • tmatt

    Wow. Instant racist cop?

    The allegation is certainly not proven. But the PHOTOS of the unborn children in the plastic cups, that is pretty terrible in and of itself. The allegations were made in a public forum in documents that are fair game. The doctor denies this charge. That needs to be reported, too.

    The key is not the second-hard testimony. It’s the photos. At least, that is my take.

  • Philip

    Photos? Did I miss something? I just reread the testimony and both the LifeSite and Columbia Tribune articles and I don’t see a single reference to any photos. Or is that between the lines?

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  • Patrick Rothwell

    Not every allegation in a sworn deposition or affidavit is true. Deluded or vindictive people utter false statements in depositions all the time. And, since the uncorroborated cannibalism story does not appear to be a basis for closing up this shop, it’s not really newsworthy, except for scandalmongering agenda-driven outfits like Lifesite.

    However, the story does remind me of Stanley Hauerwas’ question to an bioethist in which Hauerwas asked if fetal tissue were a delicacy would the ethicist eat it? If this story is true, at least one person would give an affirmative response!

  • AlyD

    That’s the only point I was trying to make. Not saying the cop WAS racist, just that racism (or something else) could be the mindset that allows him to believe something so outlandish, based on hearsay.

  • Dan D.

    I believe that some people here do not understand the laws regarding evidence. Some apparently more liberal commentators are poo-pooing the sworn affidavit, which a court of law would not do. A sworn statement is valid testimonial evidence in a court of law. Being sworn, its effect is binding on the court unless controverted by real evidence. Its usually the only type of evidence that courts work with. I do believe that courts are a more serious venue than a newsroom, thus a sworn statement should be duly noted in a paper of record.

    Moreover, lying on a sworn statement is perjury, which is a serious crime. That’s why affidavits are given serious weight as evidence, because of the very real possibility of going to jail for lying. The girl’s statement is not hearsay either, because hearsay is when you testify as to what another person said. It is not hearsay when you testify as to something you actually saw.

  • AlyD

    Not believing the cop is not the same as saying the doctor was some great guy. And for that matter I’m not saying the cop lied, just that I wonder about his credibility ( how much checking did he do into such an incredible story?).
    Like maybe his witness exagerated (it was a placenta not a baby – still nothing I want to eat but a delicacy for some) or maybe she was recounting as fact something that had just been discussed by these YOUNG (as was noted) office workers.
    As in “He’s so gross. I bet you he eats the aborted babies.” Which then becomes stuck in someones brain and becomes fact to that person.
    Likewise, when a gruesome detail like that is reported, substantiated or not, it becomes fact in people’s minds.
    There needs to be an even greater attempt at accuracy and even-handedness when such a volatile issue is reported. I would never be able to get that kind of detail past copy desk without a serious amount of fact- checking and double checking.
    Which was probably the case in the MSM account.

  • Patrick Rothwell

    “I believe that some people here do not understand the laws regarding evidence. Some apparently more liberal commentators are poo-pooing the sworn affidavit, which a court of law would not do. A sworn statement is valid testimonial evidence in a court of law. Being sworn, its effect is binding on the court unless controverted by real evidence.”

    Dan, this is not true. Affidavits are usually considered to be inadmissible hearsay if offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the affidavit. There are exceptions, of course, but they are probably not relevant here. I assure you that if I swore in an affidavit that when I was 12, Bernard Cardinal Law swooped down in a flying saucer and took me away to the Spacestation Ganymede, that statement would not be binding on the court.

  • Dan D.

    Mr. Rothwell, it most certainly is true. Affidavits are not inadmissible hearsay when offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. If in a criminal trial, then you would need more, such as a cross examination of the affiant. In a civil case, such as when you would revoke a medical license, an affidavit can do.

    As for your Cardinal Law story, anything is possible. You can submit that to the court if you want, but the court or jury does not have to believe it. You can submit a laser pistol from Cardinal Law and the jury does not have to believe it. But of course, if the jury did believe you, then it would be binding on the court. That’s the nature of evidence.

    But why quibble on the nature of affidavits in court? This is about news. If an affidavit is enough to stand up in court in any capacity (especially in the civil context), then certainly it should be valid to include it in a story. The MSM lives and breathes on anonymous “unnamed sources”, which is the very definition of hearsay. So why the concern with a sworn affidavit or deposition? It is verifiable on cross examination in the event of criminal prosecution, and the affiant’s background can be examined for a history of lying or mental instability. So what really is the problem here? The affiant may be young, but certainly old enough to work in an abortion clinic, so her age wouldn’t effect her testimony’s reliability.

  • AlyD

    Regardless of what the court’s do, it’s just the kind of detail I was taught to leave out unless it was sufficiently checked.
    People complain about “the media” jumping the gun when they don’t know the whole story. I was taught to do the exact opposite and I get lambasted for saying so.
    As you said your self, this is a civil case and the affidavit would not be subject to cross-examination. So, yeah, a GOOD reporter would wait to see how that pans out.
    You might hint at it in early stories, leaving the door open to discuss it later. Heck, you might even include it in the story because it is such a good detail. But dollars-to-donut holes, copy desk or the legal department are going to have something to say about whether it actually makes it into print.

  • Dan D.

    Its a perfectly valid point to include. I fail to see the problem here with a sworn affidavit. When a person swears to something, thats serious. That means someone is taking a real risk when saying something they actually saw. How many articles in the MSM have unnamed sources? How many articles about really serious subjects to do you see using an unnamed source? I would say quite often, if not at least once every day. Those unnamed sources are all hearsay.

    Here we have an identified person who has sworn to the truthfulness of her statement. You may not believe her, but you should acknowledge that she is there. It is very illiberal to ignore something like that, just because they are saying something you don’t like. If a reporter thinks she is lying, then she could interview the person, or check her background, question her neighbors, anything to either verify or debunk the allegation.

    Anything but ignore it. A I don’t know what a GOOD reporter would do, but I know what a curious human being would do, and that’s investigate the facts.


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