NBC's Today and CBS This Morning both led their broadcasts on Monday with euthanasia advocate Brittany Maynard's drug-induced suicide. The morning shows' anchors sang the praises of the “beautiful, brave young woman,” as Gayle King labeled Maynard. Charlie Rose touted how the cancer patient's “short and meaningful life is over.” Savannah Guthrie gushed, “What a remarkable young woman, and to share it with everyone, obviously, took a lot of courage.”
The programs avoided using the word “suicide” during their reporting – other than a month-old soundbite of CBS correspondent Jan Crawford pointing out to Maynard that some “people who would say, well, you're choosing to end your life – that's suicide.” Both newscasts acknowledged that her suicide was “controversial,” but neither one brought on anti-euthanasia talking heads, nor cited opposing posts from social media. NBC's Tamron Hall spotlighted the supportive responses on Twitter: [MP3 audio available here; video below]
TAMRON HALL: There were heartfelt Tweets about Maynard's passing. 'Your story, compassion and fight will never leave me.' 'She modeled the bravery of facing death with dignity. She, not cancer, had the last word.'
Rose previewed into Crawford's report by underlining that “the young woman, who sparked a national debate over the right to die, ends her own life.” Moments later, he used his “short and meaningful life is over” line. The correspondent, who had previously interviewed Maynard, noted that “she hoped to make it to November 1 – that that was a goal. But she said that there was a good chance that she was going to end her life on that day.”
After playing a clip from that October 14, 2014 interview, Crawford highlighted that “Brittany Maynard's message was clear. In her interview for CBS This Morning, she said she intended to die with dignity.” The only clips that the CBS journalist played during her report came from Maynard and her mother, who supported her daughter's decision.
Near the end of the segment, Crawford pointed out that “Brittany's very public decision to end her life has put the right-to-die issue back into the national public spotlight. In less than one month, her original YouTube video has gotten nearly 10 million hits, and it's stirred this emotional reaction on both sides – which really shows that this right-to-die movement remains controversial.” King then dropped her compliments of Maynard. Co-anchor Norah O'Donnell added her own sympathetic comment:
GAYLE KING: I'll say, Jan. Thank you. Such a beautiful, brave young woman – I keep thinking about her family today, but they were all together.
NORAH O'DONNELL: Yeah. And, as she said, finding a way to die with dignity – which, I think, that many people understand–
KING: Yes! Quite a decision to make.
By contrast, ABC's Good Morning America twice used the “suicide” term during their news brief on Maynard's death. They did not air a full report on the story:
[ABC News Graphic: “'Death With Dignity:' Advocate Brittany Maynard Ends Her Life“]
AMY ROBACH: A young woman, who made global headlines while campaigned for assisted suicide laws, has ended her battle with brain cancer. Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard used the lethal drugs available under Oregon's death with dignity law. She was diagnosed with a tumor ten months ago. She and her husband then moved from their home in California because that state does not allow assisted suicide.
On NBC's Today, anchor Matt Lauer teased Hall's report by announcing the “breaking news” about how Maynard “ended her own life.” He continued by asking, “Will her decision pave the way for others to make the same controversial choice?” Lauer reused his euphemism just before the correspondent's report: “Let's get to our top story this morning – and it's a sad one. It's the choice by Brittany Maynard – that 29-year-old who became the face of the controversial death-with-dignity movement – to end her own life.” A NBC graphic also used this language: “Brittany Maynard Ends Her Life; 'Death With Dignity' Advocate Dies At 29.”
Hall first hyped that Maynard “made that decision months ago, after being diagnosed with incurable brain cancer. And over the weekend, she went through with her promise – dying peacefully, surrounded by loved ones.” Like Crawford, all of her soundbites came from euthanasia activist. The NBC journalist also boosted the statements from the organization that was promoting her cause, as well as the positive messages from Twitter:
HALL (voice-over): …[O]vernight, a statement from an end-of-life choice organization associated with Maynard read, in part, 'She chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago. She died as she intended – peacefully, in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.'…
In her last online post, she thanked family and close friends, who she called her 'ring of support' before ending with a final message: 'Goodbye, world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward.' Her official obituary released Sunday night reading, 'She left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been or people she loved in her 29 years.'
HALL (on-camera): And just last month, she and her family took a trip to the Grand Canyon – the last task on her bucket list. In the end, Brittany Maynard said about her decision, 'the freedom is in the choice.'
Lauer and Guthrie offered their reactions to the Maynard story at the end of Hall's report:
MATT LAUER: I think a lot of people are going to be weighing in on this today, and sharing their emotions – both positive, and, in some cases, negative. It is a controversial decision.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Controversial, but what a remarkable young woman, and to share it with everyone, obviously, took a lot of courage.
Reprinted with permission from NewsBusters