Electric EDGE
Web Edition of
The Ragged Edge
July/August 1997

Electric Edge

New Republic article calls
Kevorkian a 'public relations

"Journalists legitimize Kevorkian's activities as medical practice by calling him a doctor, without mentioning that his medical license was revoked in 1991 and that the only remedies he "prescribes" are poisons. They call his customers "patients," though people come to him to be put away, not cured. . . . .

"The selling of Kevorkian and the distortion of his program constitute . . . . a public relations triumph for a man who has spent the past seven years as Kevorkian's attorney . . . Geoffrey Fieger . . . . [who] has transformed his client from media devil to media darling. In this, his biggest asset has been The New York Times . . . .

[It has been] is the norm for the press to report as fact whatever Fieger says. Someone has died with Jack Kevorkian at the bedside. the coroner has ruled the death a homicide. In any other circumstances, the death would be treated in the press as such. but in this case, the headline reads "ASSISTED SUICIDE." Why are the media so willing to suspend disbelief and accept the view of the man accused of participating in the homicide? The answer, ultimately, is about the biases that journalists bring to their jobs . . ."

From "The Selling of Doctor Death: How a Savvy Lawyer and a Pliant Media Turned a Mad Scientist Into a Public Hero," by Michael Betzold in the May 26 New Republic.

Betzold's harshest words are reserved for reporter Jack Lessenberry, who covered Kevorkian for The New York Times. According to Betzold, Lessenberry did much more than "cover" Kevorkian." Lessenberry "admits he edited an article Fieger wrote for Penthouse," that he "passed on to The New York Times, via his own computer, an op-ed piece Fieger wrote, and the Times published"; that he "threw a party with Kevorkian and Fieger as the guests of honor" and that he got a job as a reporter for a Frontline documentary on Kevorkian because of Fieger's recommendation.

Betzold writes that Lessenberry reported Judith Curren's death as being, in Kevorkian's words, "her decision."

"No critics appeared in the [New York Times] story to question Kevorkian's claim," writes Betzold. " . . . . Boston and Michigan papers, wire services and many other publications reported that Franklin Curren, a psychiatrist, was being probed for improperly prescribing drugs to his wife. Three weeks before his wife's death, Curren had been arrested on a domestic assault charge. . . . The Times reported virtually none of this. . . ."

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