This is going to add some fairly serious grist to the mill for the people that think Fox News is essentially the political arm of the GOP.
During the height of the health care debate a Fox News vice president Bill Sammon sent a memo to staff asking them to refer to the ‘public option’ as the ‘government option.’ Media Matters, in a welcome departure from the usual nitpicking, obtained the email which directed the new division to:
Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible.”
This memo came shortly after Republican pollster Frank Luntz advised Sean Hannity thusly:
“If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” he explained. “If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.”
This edict was backed up by Michael Clemente, Fox’s senior vice president for news, who responded to Sammon’s email: “#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.” He was referring to the longer version: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”
Howie Kurtz spoke with Sammon who defended the directive:
Sammon said in an interview that the term “public option” “is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase,” and that after all, “who would be against a public park?” The phrase “government-run plan,” he said, is “a more neutral term,” and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.
“I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.”
Other news organisations periodically described the plan as government-run or used the terms interchangeably, but not as part of any edict. While news executives routinely offer guidance about proper wording in news stories, the semantics in this case were clearly favoured by the Republicans.
According to Kurtz, Sammon has been a cause for concern for some at the network and he notes predeccesor Brit Hume “generally stressed balance in news coverage and would not likely have issued such a directive.”
If the recent trend of leaking documents is any measure this may just be the beginning.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.