I feel like I failed. First let me say this has been exhausting two or three days so my post will be fairly brief tonight. CNN worked frantically throughout the day to find studio space nearby for us to do the satellite hook-up. About three this afternoon I get a call to tell me that it appeared the best option was to send some free-lance folks out of Charlotte and do the interview at our house. That's exactly what happened.
The folks behind the scenes were awesome. Dave and Terri who work for some production company in Charlotte were absolutely awesome in dealing with the pig sty we call our den. Those two were solely responsible for what you saw on TV and they were great with Ben. In all honesty they had me very relaxed as our part of the segment began.
The two producers for CNN that I dealt with, Kari and Melissa, were fabulous. They are good folks and appreciated hearing "our" side of the story. I wish I could've done a better job of relating my thoughts.
I did not have any conversation with Paula Zahn other than what you saw on TV. I was looking at a camera lens and responding to questions asked of me through an ear-piece in my left ear. At this point I don't even know what we looked like. I know that Ben was laughing his ass off right up to the moment we went on air.
I guess the hard part is knowing what I left on the table for discussion. Yeah I'm pissed for the most part by the disability community's judgment of Ashley's parents but I didn't get to the crux of the matter. The folks I labeled "Nazis" paint this situation as black and white. If you don't agree with them then your opinion is wrong. Our feeling is that this situation is a bright shade of gray. Unless you have lived in Ashley's household for a very long time you have no business judging her parents. As I (think I) said everyone has a right to their opinion but to condemn these obviously wonderful parents like so many are doing sickens me to the core of my being. And it is particularly disturbing that much of the condemnation is coming from what I thought was a giant family whose members come together to rally for the benefit of our disabled loved ones.
As I said, I am exhausted. I will share more of the experience later in the weekend. Thanks to all of you that tuned in and at least appreciated my attempt to defend Ashley's folks.
This is the transcript from Paula's website:
ZAHN: No one, of course, knows the challenge of caring for a disabled child better than the parents themselves. And you are about to meet a man who has some very strong feelings about that. Bennie Waddell is the father of 7-year-old Ben. He strongly supports the decision of Ashley's parents. He's even been in touch with them to offer his encouragement. And Bennie very much wanted us to meet Ben. So, they both join us tonight from Greenville, South Carolina. Delighted to have both of you join us tonight. Thank you.
BENNIE WADDELL, FATHER OF DISABLED SON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So, Bennie, among other things, you have heard Ashley's parents and the ethicists and doctors that made the decision described as child abusers, mutilators, evil, playing God. What is your response to that criticism?
WADDELL: I'm appalled, to be honest with you. When I first heard those terms, it really angered me to the core of all I am, the accusations that the parents were lazy, that they don't care for their child, that they are abusing their child. Having lived a similar journey, I think it is just a ridiculous -- they are just ridiculous accusations.
ZAHN: I know you feel very badly for Ashley's parent. But the disabled community seems very, very activated by this case. You saw close to a couple dozen people protest outside the American Medical Association offices. What did you make of their outrage that day, and what they want?
WADDELL: It's bothered -- well, it's bothered me a great deal. They -- you know, I think they're -- they wanted the American Medical Association to condemn the doctors for what they did. And it is just absolutely ridiculous for somebody in the disability community to go against, so strongly, one of our own. I consider Ashley's family to be part of my family, part of my -- my extended family. And that's how most of us feel that are raising these kids that have severe disabilities.
ZAHN: And I know, in your own blog, you have gone as far as calling some of these critics disability-rights Nazis, imbeciles, jerks, uneducated idiots.
ZAHN: They do have a right to express their opinion, though, don't they?
WADDELL: No doubt, but the way they are expressing their opinion, I think, is in a -- in a dirty, lowdown form. And, if they want to make accusations, in a sense, toward my family, toward Ashley's family, for making decisions for our children that we think is the best interests, well, I'm going to get down and dirty with them just as well.
ZAHN: And I know, Ben -- or, Bennie -- your son's disability is not all that similar to what Ashley confronted. But could you imagine ever having to face the choice that Ashley's parents have?
WADDELL: Well, we have faced a lot of choices like they have -- not as drastic, not as intrusive. But every day that Ben lives, every day that he has lived, we have faced choices that, as one of your quotes earlier from Ms. Cohen's piece, that we're playing God. Well, we do play God. It's an unfortunate side of this life, that, you know, do you do things like give Ben a trach? Do you give him a feeding tube? Do you buy him a pair of glasses? You know, all of these things are choices. And, very early on, we had a situation where we were offered the ability to give Ben hormone treatments to increase his size, because part of his syndrome is that he will be much smaller than the average-sized child.
ZAHN: And that is something that you opted not to do, after a great deal of thought. I know all of these choices are very, very personal. And we really appreciate your sharing your story with us tonight.
WADDELL: Well, thank you.
ZAHN: And -- and I would say Ben is a very lucky guy to have you as his father. Thank...
WADDELL: I'm lucky to have Ben.
ZAHN: Yes, I bet you are. Thanks again for joining us tonight.
Friday, January 12, 2007