NY Mag: Sammon "Angered" Fox Reporters For "Pushing Coverage Further To The Right"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In an extensive piece for New York Magazine, Gabriel Sherman reports that Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon "angered Fox's political reporters, who saw him pushing coverage further to the right than they were comfortable with." Sherman writes:

Meanwhile, Hume's replacement, Bill Sammon, a former Washington Times correspondent, angered Fox's political reporters, who saw him pushing coverage further to the right than they were comfortable with. Days after Obama's inauguration, an ice storm caused major damage throughout the Midwest. At an editorial meeting in the D.C. bureau, Sammon told producers that Fox should compare Obama's response to Bush's handling of Katrina. "Bush got grief for Katrina," Sammon said.

"It's too early; give him some time to respond," a producer shot back. "This ice storm isn't Katrina."

Media Matters has documented that Fox News' Bill Sammon problem has further tarnished the network's credibility and called into question the purported wall between its "opinion" and "news" divisions. Sources familiar with the situation have told Media Matters that the DC bureau is slanting more to the right in recent years under Bill Sammon. Sammon became Washington managing editor in February 2009 after serving as deputy managing editor since August 2008.

As Sherman notes, there were other attempts by Sammon to slant Fox's coverage of the Obama administration to the right:

Later, Sammon caused problems internally when the Fox watchdog website Media Matters obtained a series of controversial e-mails about Fox's coverage of climate change and health care. In one December 2009 e-mail, Sammon said Fox should question the science of climate change. "We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without immediately pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question," he wrote.

Media Matters has released internal emails from Sammon showing that he directed news staffers to refrain using the phrase "public option" and instead use "government option" and similar phrases (a directive that echoed advice from Republican pollster Frank Luntz). Sammon also helped slant Fox's coverage of Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo by misleadingly telling staffers that Obama didn't use "the words 'terror,' 'terrorist' or 'terrorism' " in his speech.

Additionally, Media Matters unearthed 2009 audio of Sammon admitting that during the closing weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign, he "publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."

Sherman later writes that senior White House correspondent Major Garrett left Fox "[a]fter clashing with Sammon over his partisan journalistic agenda.":

On Friday, October 23, Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, called Fox News senior VP Michael Clemente to work out a deal. Clemente didn't take the call. Gibbs complained to Fox's well-regarded White House correspondent, Major Garrett, that Clemente had blown him off. On Monday, Garrett participated in a conference call with Ailes and Clemente and told them that the White House was looking to end the war. Clemente still hadn't returned Gibbs's call.

"Maybe I'll call him," Clemente said.

Clemente called Gibbs on October 27 and traveled to Washington the next day to try to defuse the tensions. In November 2009, on a trip to Asia, Obama granted an interview with Garrett, his first since the war with Fox began. But the entire episode was taxing for Garrett. After clashing with Sammon over his partisan journalistic agenda, Garrett quit Fox months later to become a correspondent for National Journal.

Last August, Garrett told Media Matters that he was taking a pay cut to take the National Journal job.

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Bill Sammon
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