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Fox Instructed "Objective News" Reporters To Use GOP-Preferred "Government Option" Over "Public Option"

Reported by Ellen - December 9, 2010 -

In a leak that absolutely devastates Fox News' claim that certain shows are "objective news," an email obtained by Media Matters shows that Fox News honchos directed the use of the GOP-preferred term "government option" instead of "public option" when reporting on health care reform. (H/T Aunty Em)

Media Matters' Ben Dimiero noted that on October 26, 2009, Special Report, one of Fox News' supposedly "objective news" shows, used the phrase "public option" and "government option" interchangeably. That happened to be the night that Senate Majority Leader announced the inclusion of a public option in the Senate's health reform bill.

But the next day, an email was sent from Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, with a "friendly reminder" directing, "Let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.'" The senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, replied, saying that he preferred Fox staffers use, "The public option, which is the government-run plan."

Dimiero notes,

Sammon's email appears to have had an impact. On the October 27 Special Report -- unlike on the previous night's broadcast -- Fox journalists made no references to the "public option" without using versions of the pre-approved qualifiers outlined in Sammon's and Clemente's emails.

...The wording of Sammon's email -- a "friendly reminder" not to "slip back into calling it the 'public option' " -- suggests that someone in the Fox News chain of command had previously issued similar instructions.

As Dimiero also pointed out, this is not the first time leaked documents have revealed bias in the supposedly straight reporting of news. Robert Greenwald's Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism offered up a number of memos directing bias in reporting. (Disclaimer: I and the original News Hounds worked as researchers on that film and this blog remains under the aegis of Greenwald's Brave New Films.)

In an interview with Howard Kurtz, Sammon insisted there was no bias, that "government-run plan" is "a more neutral" term than "public option" that is "simply an accurate, fair, objective term.” I'm sure it just happens to be a coincidence that it's the term GOP pollster and propagandist Frank Luntz prefers, too.

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