Fox Exec Directs Staff to Slant News Reporting

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jess Levin (202) 772-8162
jlevin@mediamatters.org

Fox Exec Directs Staff to Slant News Reporting

Media Matters releases internal Fox emails obtained from network source, encourages more to come forward

WASHINGTON - Today, Media Matters for America released emails, obtained from a Fox News source, showing
Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directing staff not to use the phrase
"public
option"
when discussing health care
reform legislation. The emails, which were sent during the height
of the health care debate, echoed Republican pollster Frank Luntz's
appearance on Hannity where he
encouraged host Sean Hannity not
to use "public option," but instead use the term "government
option" because "if you call it the 'government
option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it."

"Fox News' overt political activism -- as
evidenced in this instance by Sammon's email -- has gotten so bad that network
insiders are coming to us to help expose it,"
said Ari
Rabin-Havt, Executive Vice President at Media
Matters
. "Fox can expect
much more."

Rabin-Havt
added: "We're also launching whistleblower@mediamatters.org,
an email address where conscientious Fox News employees can anonymously send
examples of their employer's complete disregard for journalism."

BACKGROUND

On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out
of in the Senate's health care bill.

The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to
the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other
reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: "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.

Fox's
senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked
Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon's third
phrasing: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."

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.

Michael Clemente

SVP-News

212.XXX.XXXX

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

Two
months prior to the email, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Hannity's August 18 Fox
News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public
option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option"
instead.

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."

"You
know what," Hannity replied, "it's a great point, and from now on,
I'm going to call it the government option."

Read more: LEAKED
EMAIL: Fox boss caught slanting news reporting

###

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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