Pressure on some Fox News reporters in the Washington, D.C., bureau to “slant news” and “distort” coverage has sparked some discontent in the newsroom there, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Since Bill Sammon assumed the role of Washington managing editor and vice president of news at the beginning of the Obama Administration, pressure from Fox management to produce stories that lean toward a conservative agenda, and distort news in some cases, has found its way into coverage, the sources said.
Sammon, who took over the post from Brit Hume in February 2009, is widely regarded as a conservative, including by Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Chris Wallace, who have characterized him on the air as “conservative.”
In the past, Sammon boasted of his access to President Bush and used that to write several positive books about him. He also wrote a 2001 book titled “At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election.”
Sammon's job was described at the time of his appointment as overseeing “editorial content in the Washington bureau, reporting to John Moody, Executive Vice President, News Editorial.”
Sources tell Media Matters that the situation in the Fox Washington bureau represents a dramatic change from when Hume was managing editor.
According to one source, the pressure to slant Fox's reporting is coming from Sammon himself. Another source says that directives are coming from Fox management in New York and that Sammon -- unlike Hume -- doesn't have enough sway to push back.
The allegations fly in the face of Fox's claim that its news division is straight down the middle and not opinionated.
"[There is] more pressure from Sammon to slant news to the right or to tell people how to report news, doing it in a more brutish way," one source with knowledge of the situation said. “A lot of the reporters are conservative and are glad to pick up news. But there is a point at which it is no longer reporting, but distorting things.”
“Brit Hume was also encouraging people to look at things with other points of view. Brit was smart to see that a lot of mainstream media ignore certain points of view,” the source added. "That was a smart and effective way to build the Fox brand.
“But if you come in to say, 'ignore points of view and ignore facts,' then you are straying away from being a legitimate news reporter.”
Asked about the first source's allegation, a second source with knowledge of the situation said, “I wouldn't disagree with it from this standpoint: Brit was the 800-pound gorilla who could pick up the phone and say he will not do that. Bill Sammon is no 800-pound gorilla within the organization. He doesn't have that much sway.”
The second source also said of Sammon, “He is not going to buck the bosses in New York. The D.C. bureau chief [Brian Boughton] and managing editor in D.C. [Sammon] are not as powerful as they once were. They are not going to raise objections and fight hard. They will just pass on the message.”
Fox News did not respond to requests for comment on Sammon.