Kurtz: Exploring the scene at octuplets’ house

Nadya Suleman, mother of octuplets and six other children, has courted media attention, Howard Kurtz says.
Gloria Allred was at the octuplet mom’s house when the confrontation began.

By the time it was over, someone had called 911 to have the high-profile attorney ejected, she was in a war of words over the level of care for Nadya Suleman’s babies, and Dr. Phil was bowing out of his role in the tangled case. Allred will be on “Reliable Sources” Sunday at 10 a.m. ET, and I’ll be asking her about her role and how the situation turned into such a mess. While almost no one defends what Suleman did — having eight babies after already giving birth to six children, with no financial means of supporting them — I began to feel that the media were demonizing her. Pundits and pop psychologists analyzed her, trashed her and accused her of aping Angelina Jolie, all the while capitalizing on America’s latest soap opera. As HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell acknowledged on my program several weeks ago, “This idea that we’re all doing this for some altruistic purpose is nonsense. We’re doing it for ratings, and let’s be real about that.” But I lost my last remaining traces of sympathy when Suleman turned down free care from a group of volunteers, which had been arranged by Phil McGraw, the syndicated talk show host. Maybe Dr. Phil was grabbing the limelight, too, but at least the overwhelmed mother got something out of it. The volunteer nurses came from the group Angels in Waiting, and Allred, their lawyer, went to Suleman’s California home to check on how things were going. It was there that she got into a shouting match with Suleman’s lawyer, Jeff Czech.

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It was a media mob scene, with a horde of cameras, wires and microphones while the Angels tried to care for the first two premature babies to be brought home from the hospital. Allred and Czech blamed each other, as they recounted in a clash this week on Dr. Phil’s program. Said Allred: “You stood there and you put her — your finger like this and you jabbed your finger at her, and you were yelling at this poor little nanny, ‘Who are you Get the –,’ and I’m not gonna use the kind of language you used in front of this woman and everybody else. Get the you-know-what out of here. Then you came within one inch of me to wag your finger at me and screaming at me.” But while Allred accused Czech of trying to throw a secrecy blanket over the situation, he cast her as a publicity-seeker who became part of the problem: “Gloria, you can care about the nurses and the babies in the confines of your own home. You were part of the ruckus — because you’re a well-known attorney and a lot of people want to see you. So that was part of it. And that was the reason why I asked you to leave along with everybody else.”

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Octuplet mom fires nanny service

Needless to say, I’ve got plenty to ask Allred on CNN Sunday morning, including why one of the nannies called the police to have her thrown out of the home. (Allred was eventually allowed to stay.) The latest sad turn in the case is that Suleman has banished Angels in Waiting, saying she was uncomfortable with the nannies, especially after one of them called child protective services about unsafe conditions in the home. Allred has filed a complaint with Los Angeles County authorities, seeking an investigation into whether the 14 children would be endangered if left solely in Nadya’s care. And Dr. Phil, sounding slightly embarrassed, says he’s withdrawing from the situation. Of course, Suleman is not so upset that she didn’t call in to Dr. Phil’s program to join the debate over whether she was an unfit mother. She has actively sought media attention from the start, perhaps because that’s the only way she can hope to get financial help to raise the children she cannot support. Everyone involved claims to be primarily concerned about the babies. But media outlets also seem to be feasting on the tragedy as it drags on through yet another ratings period.