During the big health care debate, Fox News’ Washington managing editor came up with an interesting, little idea for his network to maintain their “fair and balance” policy. He decided they should constantly mislead the public by calling it the “government option” and now we have the emails to prove it.
Fox News pundits started sporadically adopting the “government option” slant around March, 2009, when they previously referred to it as the “public option” and Republican pollster Frank Luntz scolded them if they slipped by into using the term “public option”:
Luntz argued that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but that “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” Luntz explained that the program would be “sponsored by the government” and falsely claimed that it would also be “paid for by the government.”
Then on October 26, Fox used “public” and “government” interchangeably and Sammon was not happy. So he wrote an inter-office email, the subject of which was: “friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option.’ “:
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”
1) Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”
3) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Michael Clemente, Fox’s senior vice president, responded:
From: Clemente, Michael
To: Sammon, Bill; 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Sent: Tue Oct 27 08:45:29 2009
Subject: RE: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”
Thank you Bill
#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.
And after that, the phrase “public option” was hardly ever used on Fox.
- Fox News Memo: ‘Public Option’ Sounds Too Friendly, Stop Using It [Cable News] (gawker.com)
- Fox News Editor Forced Journalists to Use “Government Option” Instead of “Public Option” in Health Care Debate (alternet.org)
- FOX News boss slanted news reporting on health reform (dailykos.com)