Fox News “scandal”: They called the public option the “government option” instead

posted at 6:53 pm on December 9, 2010 by Allahpundit

A fine item to obsess about on a day when Chris Matthews is insisting that Hardball is “absolutely nonpartisan” and Mediaite is chronicling the top ten Nazi analogies used by Keith Olbermann against his enemies in the 8 p.m. hour on MSNBC.

On Oct. 27, the day after Senate Democrats introduced a bill with a public insurance option from which states could opt out, Bill Sammon, a Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor, sent the staff a memo. Sammon is a former Washington Times reporter.

“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible,” the memo said.

Sammon acknowledged that the phrase “public option” was “firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon,” so when it was necessary to use it, he wrote, add the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.” And “here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’”

The memos were obtained by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters. The public option—an alternative insurance exchange for those who could not get health coverage from their employers—would in fact have been run by the Health and Human Services Department. (The provision was eventually dropped before Congress passed the legislation.) The significance of the marching orders is that they were issued to the news division, which aims to be fair and balanced and is run separately from the opinion side, populated by the likes of Hannity and Glenn Beck.

The objection is that not only was this perfectly accurate description of the public option imposed on the news division by Fox’s editorial braintrust, but Frank Luntz had advised Hannity a few months before to use “government option” when discussing it because that polled much more negatively than the alternate term. Thus was launched the great right-wing Fox News conspiracy to clue the public in, however obliquely, to the fact that not everything on the left’s ObamaCare wish list might ultimately be to their liking. A fun footnote to all this: The left at times worried that the term “public option” was itself too tainted to win public support, to the point where prominent Democrats would occasionally float amusingly Orwellian alternatives. My very favorite was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz calling it the “competitive option,” which is the precise opposite of what government-run health care would accomplish vis-a-vis private insurers forced to try to keep pace with it. But see, Fox is a news organization and is supposed to be accurate (which, again, it was) and Democratic leaders are sleazy doublespeaking statists whom no one trusts anyway, so it’s really only Fox who’s engaged in any betrayal of standards here.

Even Jack Shafer at Slate can’t muster any outrage over this. Newsbusters has a few thoughts as well about the funny little word games frequently played by media outlets whenever abortion or gun rights happens to come up. (Left unmentioned: The media’s charming habit of emphasizing a conservative speaker’s ideological bent but letting a liberal’s pass unnoted.) But that’s different, I guess, because it doesn’t involve a memo from management and isn’t deliberately aimed at casting anyone in a bad light. It just sort of … happens. Exit question: Didn’t NBC make a big self-congratulatory show a few years ago of labeling sectarian conflict in Iraq as a “civil war”? Arguably that was a perfectly accurate description too, but it carried an obvious political significance by depicting the situation as more dire than many Americans had realized. Hawks naturally howled and doves naturally cheered. (To this day, as far as I know, there’s been no formal announcement by NBC that the civil war is over or suspended or resurgent or anything of the sort.) Which is to say, this isn’t the first time a news agency has bucked conventional terminology for a phrase which it feels better describes reality and which might move public opinion through its usage. So why single out Fox?


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Gasp!!! Say it ain’t so!

d1carter on December 9, 2010 at 6:56 PM

That’s it??? No, libs!! You won’t ruin my fun today!!! Still locin the whole blue on blue thing going on!

WhatsRight on December 9, 2010 at 6:56 PM

“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible,” the memo said.”

What else would you call it…?

Seven Percent Solution on December 9, 2010 at 6:56 PM

so I just want to know how this is going to impact Michelle and the kids’ vacation..?

ted c on December 9, 2010 at 6:58 PM

So why single out Fox?

They must be destroyed.

The monopoly of information must continue unbroken.

Brian1972 on December 9, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Pissy tingles was spittin’ all over the place tonight. He even resurrected Nixon.

OmahaConservative on December 9, 2010 at 6:58 PM

So why single out Fox?

Because Fox is the organization whose bias, when shown, doesn’t lean left.

CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS…they’re fine because their bias is left-wing.

amerpundit on December 9, 2010 at 6:59 PM

They really lost it when Fox used the term “homicide bombers” . . .

BigAlSouth on December 9, 2010 at 6:59 PM

I’m taking two things from this:

1. Liberals think that labelling something “governmnent” is unfair because it has a negative connotation. Doesn’t that say something about governmnent?

2. Both terms are liberal propaganda because they suggest that the end result will have options.

malclave on December 9, 2010 at 7:00 PM

So what? Anti-American liberal outfits like ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN do it all the time.

darwin on December 9, 2010 at 7:01 PM

I get it. The mail man is not a government employee, he’s a public employee.

Rovin on December 9, 2010 at 7:02 PM

public schools = government schools

darwin on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

The media and the left constantly used only “health care” when debating this monstrosity. It would sound like, “are Republicans going to vote against health care” or some other play on words. They would leave off reform to give the impression Republicans and conservatives were against health care. So a big yawn from me.

Howcome on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Wasn’t government takeover of healthcare called the “Healthcare Affordability Act”? Who’s against affordable healthcare?

Marcus on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

So why single out Fox?

Because Fox is getting a message out they don’t want heard.

portlandon on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Fox reports facts and left has a tizzy. Left spins and distorts facts and calls it news.

Upside down; inside out; black is white.

Take your pick.

KittyLowrey on December 9, 2010 at 7:04 PM

Definition of the word public:

Connected with or acting on behalf of the people, community, or government

Yeah calling the public option, government option was waayyyyyyy off.

angryed on December 9, 2010 at 7:10 PM

1. Liberals think that labelling something “governmnent” is unfair because it has a negative connotation. Doesn’t that say something about governmnent?

Ha! Too true.

Surely some lefty pollster came up with the term “public option”. Framing!

MayBee on December 9, 2010 at 7:11 PM

This can only even be considered a scandal when “pro-choice” is first considered a scandal.

clement on December 9, 2010 at 7:17 PM

1. Liberals think that labelling something “governmnent” is unfair because it has a negative connotation. Doesn’t that say something about governmnent?

malclave on December 9, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Communists had that problem once, so they started naming everything “the peoples’ ___”. Maybe Bammie and his gang will try that.

slickwillie2001 on December 9, 2010 at 7:17 PM

I love it when liberals whine when their playbook is used against them!

Rndguy on December 9, 2010 at 7:18 PM

It should have been called the government option in the first place since the government is in control of it. But Obama and his crew didn’t want to use that term because they thought having “government” in the title would look bad. It’s all word games.

SoulGlo on December 9, 2010 at 7:19 PM

I love it when liberals whine when their playbook is used against them!

Rndguy on December 9, 2010 at 7:18 PM

+100

“Hey! Stop using Alinsky Tactics against OUR Alinsky tactic!”

portlandon on December 9, 2010 at 7:21 PM

Double down, Fox. It’s the only way to fight these dishonest creeps. Stand by the use, and pledge to keep using it. The Left is infuritaed that we’re not all buying their word-games, and — unforgiveably! — calling things what they are. Their only hope is leading us all into their enchanted forest of lies and lost meanings. Burn the forest down!

rrpjr on December 9, 2010 at 7:21 PM

GASP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What the eff EVAH….

ladyingray on December 9, 2010 at 7:21 PM

Can’t believe Sammon, would deign to suggest the use of the term “government option” instead of what it really is … the “death panel option”. Pansy-ass. ✪

TXUS on December 9, 2010 at 7:22 PM

The media and the left constantly used only “health care” when debating this monstrosity. It would sound like, “are Republicans going to vote against health care” or some other play on words. They would leave off reform to give the impression Republicans and conservatives were against health care. So a big yawn from me.
Howcome on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

I attended a Tea Party rally last year and a “reporter”,pad and pen in hand, from the local paper (A NY Times wannabe ,like a lot of left leaning local papers) came up to one of the organizers nearby and asked “so your against health care?”

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on December 9, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Progressives are traitors to the Founding principles of this country.

Progressives of BOTH parties.

PappyD61 on December 9, 2010 at 7:25 PM

More interesting question, -who at Fox News gave it to Media Matters?

slickwillie2001 on December 9, 2010 at 7:25 PM

public option, competitive option, why not call it the compassionate option where everyone gets the health care they need and pay only what they can afford? That would be fair.

Then we should have government screen people and select those who are best suited to go into the health care field, those with compassion, people who care for and about other people and train them to be doctors and nurses. Then we could have government select good people, intelligent people who can do the science and who can do the research and invent the new drugs, methods, procedures, instrument we need for high quality health care.

Ya, that would be good. Then have government select who would be farmers, and truck drivers, who would be soldiers and policemen, all based on abilities, you see. Then we could all be happy, government employees, making good government wages. Why everyone would be rich, then.

It’s all so logical, why can’t more people see it?

Skandia Recluse on December 9, 2010 at 7:26 PM

Must be a really SLOW news day at Media Matters. What with DADT on the ropes and Madame Pelosi throwing a hissy fit about taxes. And don’t even mention the Dream Act.

GarandFan on December 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM

The media and the left constantly used only “health care” when debating this monstrosity.
Howcome on December 9, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Conservative politicians should be calling it the “Health control bill.” It’s far more about control than it is care.

rrpjr on December 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM

Not only do they want to obscure what they’re talking about, but they attack anybody who insists on clarity. More and more these cackle-fests remind me of the scene in The Music Man where the ladies of the town attack Marion the Librarian singing Pick a Little, Talk a Little Last week it was Bristol Palin. Now this.

flataffect on December 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM

Was overseas contingency option taken?

ndanielson on December 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM

Sounds about right to me.

My cheeky daughter, when asked, tells people her children don’t go to “government schools.”

They are, thankfully, receiving a quality education. They are home schooled.

marybel on December 9, 2010 at 7:42 PM

So why single out Fox?

This is a rhetorical question, isn’t it?

holygoat on December 9, 2010 at 7:44 PM

Just like when NPR instructed its affiliates to call pro-lifers “abortion rights opponents”, right?

No?

How is it different, exactly?

alwaysfiredup on December 9, 2010 at 7:47 PM

public option, competitive option, why not call it the compassionate option

Good point.
We could also eventually call it the “Only Option”. And if it is the only option, it is also the “Best Option”.

Impartially, Fox should have called it the “Best Option”.

MayBee on December 9, 2010 at 7:48 PM

“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible,” the memo said.”

You say toe-may-toe I say toe-mah-toe.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 9, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Meanwhile, the lame stream media was calling it “Reform”.

Slowburn on December 9, 2010 at 7:50 PM

How about it’s a laugh riot to watch the QUACK UP.

tarpon on December 9, 2010 at 7:51 PM

To this day, as far as I know, there’s been no formal announcement by NBC that the civil war is over or suspended or resurgent or anything of the sort

Which is why Rush calls the MSM the Drive By Media.

If journalists, are looking for accuracy in journalism, then they got to stop with this pi.s.sing contest with Fox News.

The ratings speak for themselves. Fox crushes all of them, at all hours, with all demographics.

Kini on December 9, 2010 at 7:54 PM

(Left unmentioned: The media’s charming habit of emphasizing a conservative speaker’s ideological bent but letting a liberal’s pass unnoted.)

True, but Sammons doesn’t do himself any favors by saying he isn’t conservative. I’m sure Keith Olbermann thinks his views are sensible and fair. Sammon should show a little more self awareness.

Enrique on December 9, 2010 at 7:55 PM

Meanwhile, the lame stream media was calling it “Reform”.

IIRC, sometimes they even called it “historic”.

MayBee on December 9, 2010 at 7:55 PM

Sounds like the progressives are ashamed of their government run health care…or is that government option?

And media matters calling something in to question with the lies they publish on their site? Pfft.

BruthaMan on December 9, 2010 at 7:57 PM

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act = Government Health Care
Homeland Security = Government Insecurity
Employee Free Choice Act = Union Takeover
Dream Act = Amnesty for Illegals

Kini on December 9, 2010 at 8:07 PM

More interesting question, -who at Fox News gave it to Media Matters?

slickwillie2001 on December 9, 2010 at 7:25 PM

Probably Shepard Smith. Media Matters loves that liberal cry baby.

SoulGlo on December 9, 2010 at 8:10 PM

Hey Sammon — next time, ex-nay on the memo thing. Just call ‘em into a meeting.

John the Libertarian on December 9, 2010 at 8:17 PM

You can’t make a strawman without grasping at straws.

ajacksonian on December 9, 2010 at 8:20 PM

Why are they making a big f-ing deal about The Big F-ing Deal?

Left Coast Right Mind on December 9, 2010 at 8:30 PM

Fox was being nice. They could have called it the “taxpayer funded option”.

DougC on December 9, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Conservative politicians should be calling it the “Health control bill.” It’s far more about control than it is care.

rrpjr on December 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM

I prefer “Health Insurance Takeover” (or HIT).

malclave on December 9, 2010 at 8:51 PM

Government run is to public option as illegal is to…”Undocumented”?

Nothing to see here if this wasn’t on Journo-listi

HarryStar on December 9, 2010 at 9:08 PM

It’s time to start calling “public” education “government” education.

WisCon on December 9, 2010 at 9:19 PM

So it’s kind of like how most libs whine about being called socialists even as they advocate income redistribution or being called unpatriotic as they burn American flags.
Truly Orwellian.

Grayson on December 9, 2010 at 9:26 PM

So?

This reminds me of any numbr of tems used by the mainstream media. The latest was when Mrs. Obama went to Spain and every reporter in the US said there was an issue with the “optics”. As if that is a term used commonly in the news. Rush even did one of his Media Montages on it. And it was hillarious how many people from every news station and Meet the Press and all of those other news shows kept using the term “optics”. As if we are to believe that 100reporters all came up with the same word for their description.

jeffn21 on December 9, 2010 at 9:54 PM

But that’s different, I guess, because it doesn’t involve a memo from management and isn’t deliberately aimed at casting anyone in a bad light. It just sort of … happens.

I’m sure there are tons of memos spinning the news left, 100 times worse than this example on the right, it’s just that they aren’t public as often. That was the whole purpose of the journolist.

zmdavid on December 10, 2010 at 12:12 AM

They called the public option the “government option”

I’m still going to refer to it as the “Obamacare Sick Citizen Waiting Room and Crematorium”

landlines on December 10, 2010 at 1:44 AM

So why single out Fox?

Do you really need to ask? I mean even rhetorically.

MJBrutus on December 10, 2010 at 5:18 AM

I take offense with National Public Radio.

Let’s just call it the people’s republic of rationed health care.

kregg on December 10, 2010 at 6:58 AM

If my memory serves me correctly, President Obama himself, in a nationally telepromptered speech, described the ‘public option’ as being the same as going to the US Postal Service for care.

That pretty much makes the issue settled.

percysunshine on December 10, 2010 at 7:13 AM

I have been postulating that if unions just got out of business’s face (demanding pay increases and benefits already covered by the government) and let business run themselves there will be greater profit for expansion.

Thank you Allapundit and Media Matters, I thought I had credible sources for what I have been postulating for years.
Specifically, that an alternative insurance exchange for those who could not get health coverage from their employers could in fact have been run/provided by the unions.

Now, the government comes along and almost screwed this idea up by considering to allow the Health and Human Services Department to offer supplemental Insurance coverage. Fortunately, the provision was eventually dropped before Congress passed the legislation.

MSGTAS on December 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Anyone ever heard of the AP Stylebook? It’s a style “guide” for the news media on how to spell, capitalize, or refer to items in news stories.
One example of how they manipulate reporting is the characterization of the abortion issue:
“Abortion: Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.”
In my estimation, a news organization has every right to characterize terms in stories to describe the event as accurately as possible, as they see it. There is no such thing as “unbiased” reporting. Of course, the lamestream media thinks that Fox or other conservative-leaning outlets aren’t allowed to play the same game as their side.
I believe that the “government option” is much more accurate than the “public option.”

connectthedots on December 10, 2010 at 9:17 AM

All major media have stylebooks for reporters and editors to follow. Most newspapers use the AP’s or NY Time’s stylebook. So Media Mutters getting upset with Fox is just more left-wing BS. Remember how the NY Times called the insurgents in Iraq “al Qaeda in Mesopotamia”? They couldn’t say Iraq. Fox drives me nuts with “homicide bomber”. The paper I worked for (way before I started working there) used to call public schools “gun run schools” on the editorial page.

cartooner on December 10, 2010 at 10:33 AM

Interesting how the #1 abortion mill in America is called “Planned Parenthood”…

Odie1941 on December 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM

Aren’t these people who are belly aching about this the same ones who call keeping the tax rate the same a “tax cut”?

76United on December 10, 2010 at 11:12 AM

“So why single out Fox?”

That isn’t a serious question is it? The pinko-LSM can’t handle the fact that people might want an unbiased report, a true report, or even one of a different opinion. Fox is a target because they don’t toe the leftist line.

woodNfish on December 10, 2010 at 4:30 PM