The fate of his wife was at the center of one of the most controversial political and ethical battles in recent history. For months it made headlines and bitterly divided our nation all the way up to the president. Now, one year later, Michael Schiavo — the man who was praised by some, and vilified by others — and his new wife, Jodi, sit down for their first network interview with NBC News’ Matt Lauer to tell their side of the story.
Schiavo talks with Lauer about his new book, “Terri: The Truth,” and discusses at length how they met, the night Terri collapsed, and the complicated and hard times that followed as the country became involved in her right to live or die. Viewers also get to hear from his new wife, Jodi, who has remained silent all this time for fear of their children’s safety. The interview will be broadcast on "Dateline," Sunday, March 26 at 7 p.m., and Schiavo will appear live on "Today," Monday, March 27, and with Jodi on Tuesday, March 28.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
On his book, “Terri: The Truth”
Matt Lauer, NBC News: I guess you could’ve written a book to honor Terri. After reading it, it’s not really the book you wrote. This is a book that in some ways settles some scores, doesn’t it?
Michael Schiavo: Oh yes it does.
Lauer: You did think about writing that a book that honored Terri?
Schiavo: Oh yes. Many times. I mean this book does honor Terri in a way. It sets her free. It tells the truth.
On allegations that he waited to call 911 after Terri collapsed on Feb. 25, 1990
Schiavo: They’re wrong. I heard the thud. Ran to Terri. Called after that little gasp, I mean, it was within a minute I was on the phone with 911. They can think whatever.
On his marriage to Jodi
Lauer: People have often asked. Michael why didn’t you divorce Terri, you were living with Jodi.
Michael Schiavo: Why do I have to divorce Terri? Terri wasn’t like a football— an inanimate object you pass back and forth. She was my wife. You mean because your wife gets sick, do you give her back?
Jodi Schiavo: I would think so much less of Michael had he walked away from her. That is one of the qualities in him that I so admire. That up against everything...he stuck by her...
On his decision to remove Terri’s feeding tube in the face of pressure from the Vatican and the American public
Schiavo: Yeah, well I guess when it all boiled down, I couldn’t understand why these people were so passionate about my life... People are allowed to die every day. Feeding tubes are removed every day.
Lauer: Did you think at all at that point - and I think Jodi even came to you one day and said, “Give it up.”
Schiavo: I couldn’t. I couldn’t. You know, my parents, they raised me to be a fighter. And I was doing something that Terri wanted. And I couldn’t give it up on her. I came this far. And I wasn’t gonna let anybody stand in my way.
On hs decision not to let Terri’s brother in the hospital room to say a final goodbye
Schiavo: I didn’t want the animosity. I didn’t want the feelings. I didn’t want the aura that Bobby and I, you know, we hate each other.
Lauer: Do you think, Michael, in that last minute, Bobby’s in the hallway; he wants to come in—her brother. You’re walking into the room. Did you stop and think, “What would Terri want?” Would she want her brother or sister?
Schiavo: I’m sure Terri would want the families to get along and be happy. But it didn’t happen. I had to get to Terri. I had seconds then. Seconds. I got into her room, and I could see that she’d changed, like that.
On if the promise he is convinced he is honoring was as important to Terri
Schiavo: She’s up there praising me right now... and saying thank you.