Michael Clancy is the photojournalist who was hired by USA Today to record the fetal surgery of 21-week-old Samuel Armas. According to Clancy, during the surgery to correct for spina bifida, he saw that the mother’s uterus began to shake from within, and as he watched, the tiny fist “came through the opening with a fury” to reveal the whole arm. The doctor lifted the tiny hand, and Samuel then “reacted by squeezing the doctor’s gloved finger.” As if to test for strength, the doctor, Joseph P. Bruner, shook the fist, but “Samuel held firm,” according to Clancy.
The veteran photojournalist was able to take several pictures in progression at 1/60 of a second. Not even sure if the pictures were in focus, Clancy submitted the roll of unprocessed film to USA Today per their policy to avoid manipulation.
But immediately after the surgery, Clancy was shocked when the doctor asserted to others that the event was staged and that he had purposely pulled the baby’s hand out of the womb to provide a photo op. “Untrue!” says Clancy as he suddenly found himself in the center of a very difficult situation. . . .
It came down to Clancy’s word against the doctor, who, suggests Clancy, needed to protect his reputation from the evidence that Samuel had come out from under the anesthesia too early – an occurrence, Clancy says, that “happens[,] and we all know it. It [anesthesia] was experimental for mother and baby at the time.”
It would be reasonable to think that the man who snapped such an amazing photo would receive a Pulitzer Prize. But the controversy served to end Clancy’s journalistic reputation and the twelve-year career he loved.
Ever since, he has been speaking to people about the event and the historic and political impact on the journalistic community at the time.