Media Give Mom a Break in Death of Son

October 8th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Sometimes it seems the news media outdo themselves in their zeal to marginalize fathers and support mothers, irrespective of the merits of either.  Here’s a good example (Gothamist, 10/3/12).

The article is about a terrible event that occurred in Westchester County, New York last week.  It seems that Manuela Morgado and Dr. Timothy Leish had an affair several years ago and had a four year old son, Jason.
 Leish then returned to his former wife, Erin, and the two remarried.  He and Morgado had joint custody of Jason, but she had more parenting time than he did.  Still, there was a continuing custody battle between the two of them, and the latest turn of events saw Morgado asking for still more parenting time.  That’s because Jason had been recently diagnosed as a special needs child, so she wanted to place him in a pre-school program closer to where she lived.  But she made her motion to the court too late in the school year, so the judge denied it temporarily.  The next thing anyone knew, Morgado apparently murdered Jason via asphyxiation and tried to take her own life, possibly with a drug overdose.  She failed, was arrested and now faces charges of second-degree murder.

Given all that, you might think that anyone writing an article about the situation would show at least a little compassion for the father who’s just lost his youngest son.  But you’d be wrong.  In fact, the linked-to piece does the opposite, bending over backwards to explain away Morgado’s heinous act.  It does so by quoting a single person – Morgado’s family attorney, Dennis Light.

Morgado’s lawyer Dennis Light said, “It was a burden to her to have to bring the child all the way to Briarcliff Manor two, maybe three times a week, when the child resided with her.” (The two towns are about 22-28 miles away, depending on what route you take.)…

Light “believes Morgado, a graphic designer, may have been pushed to the brink after a Friday court conference with an appeals judge that ended with no resolution.” He recalled, “She was disappointed… Looking back now, she seemed a little detached. At the time, she just seemed cold. I believe she took it as yet another defeat.”

Hmm.  It’s hard to understand how Morgado felt so defeated in a case in which she was the primary custodial parent. Maybe she felt that any parenting time at all was too much for the boy’s father.  But whatever the case, the article’s author plainly wants readers to feel every bit of sympathy for Morgado possible, so it attempts to “explain” her behavior with resort to the custody case.  It’s not an easy thing to accomplish given the fact that she’d apparently won, even if not the latest contretemps.

Worse, the writer reaches back seven years to quote bald assertions made by Erin in their divorce case then.  What bearing that has on the murder of Jason Reish I can’t begin to guess.  In fact, its sole function is to cast in a bad light the man who’s just lost his son.

Back in 2005, he tried to have their divorce proceedings moved to Ohio (where the couple was living), but the Post points out, “Erin [who supported him during medical school] blasted him in court documents, suggesting he was trying to pull a fast one because New York considers a medical license part of the marital assets, and Ohio doesn’t.”

Reading that, you’d never know that the request to move the trial to Ohio made perfect legal sense because the pair had lived there almost exclusively prior to the divorce.  But when you write a piece that’s this one-sided, you don’t let on about even obvious facts, much less get the other side of the story.  After all, everyone knows that allegations are made in divorces and custody battles that often don’t bear scrutiny, but that didn’t stop the writer from taking at face value Erin’s claims seven years ago.

Here’s what else you’d never know from the linked-to piece – that Manuela Morgado had sent threatening letters to both Dr. Leish and Erin.  It’s true, and the letters are in police custody even now, as has been reported, but again, when you’re trying to paint a mother who apparently murdered a little boy as,  in some way, the victim of an evil father, it’s best to ignore inconvenient facts.  Better yet, why not simply contradict them?

Light told the Journal News that the two women [Morgado and Erin] “had a fine relationship. There was no acrimony between the two women that I’m aware of.”

No acrimony, just a threatening letter.

Finally, when it comes to excusing mothers and denigrating fathers, there’s that old press stand-by, silencing the father.  As in the case of the Italian man whose four daughters were just returned to him after being abducted by their mother for over two years, seemingly no one in the press corps covering Jason Leisch’s death has access to a telephone.  I know that sounds odd, but what else can we conclude from the fact that no one has picked up such an instrument and called the man or his lawyer?  Actually, I’m going to guess that those reporters do have telephones and know how to use them.  But doing so would throw a wrench into the works.  If Dr. Leisch were given a chance to speak, we might learn something of the pain and anguish he feels at the loss of his dearly beloved son.  That in turn might make readers feel sorry for him and recall who the real wrong doer in the case is.  And we can’t have that, now can we.

The news media’s desperation to portray mothers as the helpless victims of fathers seems to know no bounds.  Sometimes, as in this case, it’s a pretty tough job, but they always seem up to it.

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