FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Jess Levin (202) 772-8162
Media Matters releases internal Fox emails obtained from network source, encourages more to come forward
Washington, DC -- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, an email address where conscientious Fox News employees can anonymously send examples of their employer's complete disregard for journalism."
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.
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."
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. For more information, visit www.mediamatters.org