Fox News Memo: 'Public Option' Sounds Too Friendly, Stop Using ItS

An August 2009 e-mail from Fox News' Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, ordered reporters to drop the term "public option" for "government-run plan" during the health care reform debate. Could Fox News have a right-wing bias?

Sammon, a former Washington Times reporter, sent this memo to his newsroom, and got a reply from Fox's senior vice preisdent for news, Michael Clemente.

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.

***

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.

Michael Clemente

SVP-News

212.XXX.XXXX

This is controversial because "public option" polled well, while "government-run plan" or "government-run health insurance" fared worse. However it was said, this would have been an optional plan within a larger bill that preserved the private health insurance system. So the one that Clemente and Sammon settled on, "the public option, which is the government-run plan," is only outrageously inaccurate if the "option" was presented as either the "government-run plan" or another bill altogether. (And I'm sure they didn't bother explaining that the option would have been fully funded by premiums instead of by free taxpayer dollars.)

Ugh, health care reform semantics. Let's not re-litigate this.

[via Media Matters, photo of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes via AP]