Health care reform advocates slam Sammon, Fox News over leaked emails showing effort to slant coverage

Today, health care reform advocates responded to Media Matters' release of leaked emails obtained from a Fox News source showing the network's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directing staff not to use the phrase “public option” when discussing health care reform legislation.

In a statement given to Media Matters from the office of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin -- chair of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee – communications director Kate Cyrul said:

“Today's revelation shows just how far Fox is willing to go to slant their news reporting. The fact is, they had to spin because they know that as more Americans benefit from things like free preventive care, and increased access to more affordable care, the more they like the health reform that created those benefits. And let's face it, nearly a year later, you can call it whatever you want, just so long as you call it the law.”

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) sent an alert on the subject to their email list and released the following statement:

“At a time when right-wing extremists were trying to make the case that the health care reform bill was a government takeover plot, Fox News incorporated politically charged language into its day-to-day reporting to mislead its audience into thinking the public option was something that it wasn't. The public option would have competed with private insurance companies to help lower costs and give consumers more choices.

” The commonly used term was 'public option' for a reason – it was precise and descriptive of a policy that would have given consumers another choice of coverage.

“But Fox News's policy is to drive a political agenda and systematically influence its audience's views. Fox News wanted to smear health care reform by choosing a poll-tested phrase crafted by a Republican communications consultant so itsallegedly objective news reporters could describe health care reform as something that it is not.”

Health Information Center's communications director Erikka Knuti provided Media Matters with the following statement:

“Bill Sammon directed the news division to use language he knew to be politically charged. His emails were journalistically unethical. Their existence calls in to question the integrity of every minute of Fox News' health care coverage under his management.”


Full Disclosure: Erikka Knuti was previously employed by Media Matters.