How Fox News “spun” the health-care debate

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.

Sammon said in an interview that the term “public option” “is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase,” and that after all, “who would be against a public park?” The phrase “government-run plan,” he said, is “a more neutral term,” and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.

“I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.”

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.