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Leaked Fox News Emails Show Deliberate Slant On Health Care Coverage

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Newscom

Here's an email that Sammon allegedly wrote, outlining his instructions:

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.

Apparently Sammon's instructions made an impact. Media Matters reports that Republican pollster Frank Luntz in August told Fox News' Sean Hannity that referring to health care reform as a "government option" creates more public disapproval than calling the reform a "public option." Media Matters also reports that the memo affected Fox News anchor Bret Baier's wording from one night to another.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: This Means War!: White House Takes On Fox News]

Sammons, in an interview with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, defended the wording, saying the term "public option" is a "vague, bland, undescriptive phrase." But "government option," he claims, "is simply an accurate, fair, objective term."

After reading Media Matters' scoop, Health Care for America Now -- a health care advocacy group -- released a statement saying that Fox News' policy is to "drive a political agenda," adding that "the commonly used term was 'public option' for a reason -- it was precise and descriptive of a policy that would have given consumers another choice of coverage."

About The Author

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David Taintor is a news editor at Talking Points Memo. Previously, he worked at NBC News and Adweek. He's a native of Minnesota. Reach him at taintor@talkingpointsmemo.com.