WASHINGTON, April 7, 2005 — -- Sen. Mel Martinez acknowledged today that an anonymous memo listing political talking points on the Terri Schiavo case that was passed on the Senate floor came from his office.
The memo was first reported March 18 by ABC News' Linda Douglass on "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings." It referred to the battle over the removal of the feeding tube from Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, as "a great political issue."
Martinez, R-Fla., said the memo had been written by an aide in his office, and he said he had accepted the aide's resignation.
"It is with profound disappointment and regret that I learnedtoday that a senior member of my staff was unilaterally responsiblefor this document," Martinez said in a statement.
He did not name the aide, but ABC News has confirmed it was Brian Darling, the senator's legal counsel.
"This type of behavior and sentiment willnot be tolerated in my office," Martinez said.
The memo was produced as lawmakers were drafting legislation to direct the federal courts to review the Schiavo case. Congress passed the bill and President Bush signed it. But despite this legislation and many 11th-hour legal appeals by Schiavo's parents the courts refused to intervene. Schaivo, 41, died March 31, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.
Martinez said he had no prior knowledge of the document. "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession," he said.
Democrats had maintained the memo was proof that Republicans were seeking a political edge in the fight between Schiavo's husband, Michael, and her parents over removing her feeding tube. Republican leadership denied producing the document, leading some conservative bloggers to question whether it ever existed.
Marttinez's statement confirmed that it did exist, and that he himself had handed the document to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, mistakenly thinking it was background information on the bill.