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December 10, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Although Fox News has adamantly insisted that any bias in its reports is limited to the commentaries of its primetime hosts and does not affect its daytime news coverage, the liberal website Media Matters has published memos to the news staff from Fox News executives that appear to raise questions about its claims. The memos were also excerpted in TheDailyBeast.com by its new media columnist, Howard Kurtz.

Bill Sammon

In a series of October 2009 memos, Bill Sammon, a Fox news VP and Washington managing editor, sent the news staff instructions to use the term “government-run health insurance” in place of “public option” in referring to President Obama’s term for a key provision in his health bill. “Here’s another way to phrase it,” he instructed. “The public option, which is the government-run plan.” Earlier, Republican pollster Frank Luntz had sent this advice to Fox commentator Sean Hannity: “If you call it a public option, the American people are split. … If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.” In his report, Kurtz observed, “Other news organizations periodically described the plan as government-run or used the terms interchangeably, but not as part of any edict. While news executives routinely offer guidance about proper wording in news stories, the semantics in this case were clearly favored by the Republicans.” Asked about the memo, Sammon told Kurtz, “I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not,” Sammon says. “It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.”