Media Matters has posted a very interesting report that once again illustrates just how laughable the Fox News slogan “Fair and Balanced” really is. It seems the network’s Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, sent around a memo instructing his staff not to the use the phrase “public option” because it was testing too well.
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.
Journalists on the network’s flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon’s directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox’s Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox’s supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon’s “government option” email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right — in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.
Go read the whole report. It’s really very interesting – if not very surprising for those of us who have been casual viewers of Fox News for the past decade, or so. This kind of leak is helpful, however, because it provides empirical evidence straight from the Conservative horse’s mouth.
The report also confirms the popularity of the public option, and how it’s widespread positive polling had Conservatives running scared. Republican pollster Frank Luntz actually scolded Sean Hannity for using the term “public option.” He ordered Hannity to instead call it the “government option.”
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.”
Of course, because Obama chose not to fight for the public option, Conservatives have since been able to frame the narrative as the public having “rejected” the public option. That simply isn’t the case. In fact, poll after poll after poll showed that a majority of the American people supported including a public option in the final health care bill.
That’s the danger of having a propaganda network like Fox News. This memo shows how the staff works to shape a Conservative narrative that they package as “What The American People Think.” Then Conservatives on the hill nod to Fox News as evidence that a Conservative agenda is What The American People Want, and that of course bolsters the whole fictional “America is a center-right country” bullshit fantasy Pat Buchanan jerks off to every evening.
Here’s a little mental exercise you can play at home: Imagine if Fox News got a hold of an MSNBC memo like this in which a network head was instructing his staff to refer to the Deficit Commission as the “Catfood Commission.” Can you imagine how fast Neil Cavuto or Megyn Kelly would rupture a lung screaming about the “liberal agenda?”