"Friendly Reminder": Fox's Unbalanced Ethics Threaten Democracy

Anyone who still clings to the notion that Fox News is actually a news organization rather than a propaganda machine for special interests -- and that it actually is led by journalists who adhere to the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists -- must read the leaked memos Media Matters disclosed this morning.

Under the heading of "Fox boss caught slanting news reporting," Media Matters shared on its Web site an internal memo that Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, sent a memo "at the height of the health care reform debate" to his network's so-called journalists, directing them not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon told them, they should use focus-tested Republican and insurance industry talking points "to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts."

In his October 27, 2009 memo to his staff, Sammon offered what he called a "friendly reminder." "Let's not slip back into calling it the "public option." Instead, he ordered:

  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.

As I wrote in my book, Deadly Spin, PR firms representing the health insurance industry routinely furnished conservative pundits and so-called journalists with talking points their consultants developed to scare people away from reform.

The insurance industry has spent millions of our premium dollars over the years on linguistic research and message testing to assist it in disseminating false and misleading information to manipulate public opinion.

I devoted an entire chapter to the industry's "Playbook." Here is one of the tactics I said included in the Playbook:

Feed talking points to TV pundits and frequent contributors to op-ed pages. They will know how to get talk show hosts with big audiences like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck to say things on the air to support your point of view and discredit your opponents.

This morning, the grassroots advocacy coalition Health Care for America Now asked its supporters to "reject Fox News and its attempts to continually attack the Affordable Care Act and the people who support it under the guise of legitimate 'reporting.'"

I am calling on Rupert Murdoch to fire Sammon, and I am calling on Fox's so-called journalists and the network's producers -- many of whom I know and have worked with over the years -- to denounce Sammon's partisan approach to reporting and commentary. I am further calling on them, and the news staff at the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Murdoch, to dedicate themselves to truly being "fair and balanced" and to familiarize themselves with the profession's code of ethics.

Nothing short of our democracy is at stake here, folks.


thank you for your efforts. now then, what do we do? the only people who do not understand the destructive power of fox are the ones still watching, they are about exactly half of voters and there does not seem to be any power on earth capable of bringing them to the light. we still laugh when sarah palin gets mentioned as a predidential candidate, but we forget that these people elected little george. twice. it does not seem nearly so pertinent that one needs little more than a gun, a bible, a flag and a bumper sticker to win the republican vote than answering the question of what do we do now? That is, there comes a point where you have to move beyond preaching to your own choir an let's all start doing something. yes they are terribly ignorant, yes they are about half of us and they are absolutely, positively a spectacularly destructive power. Now what?

I love Fox News; I love all of the reporters on there and I hold each of them in high esteem ... You article here was ridiculous. Certainly Fox News is slanted to the right, although commonly they entertain other points of view. Geraldo and Juan Williams are two very respected journalists and they typically report from a liberal slant. The way you speak about the bible is interesting. That shows your amount of respect for the bible. Republicans did have ideas, but Democrats went behind closed doors with the insurance companies and wrote the health care bill. There was no transparency. Then when Congress voted on it, Pelosi said, "we need to hurry up and vote on this bill so that we can find out what is in it." You expect the American people to respect that? Many of us do not respect that type of legislation. While there are health care problems and I can agree on fixing many of them, you were so unwilling to take Republicans into meaningful debate and discussion to solve problems. Newt Gingrich suggested time and time again, to just take one problem at a time, and discuss and vote on it, such as pre-existing conditions ... deal with that in one bill. That would have been do-able, but you wouldn't do it. You wanted to shun Republicans, conservatives,

Has anyone on the Left ever read the 28th Amendment? I stongly suggest everyone read it and that includes Obama, Reid, Pelosi and all members of Government that are involved in the Law Making Process. In other words. Congress must have the same brand of Healthcare, that is known as Obamacare, if the citizens are forced to take part.

If you stopped watching fox news, and listening to Rush, you would have time to educate yourself on the matter. IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE INSURANCE, IT IS NOT MANDATED TO CHANGE YOUR PLAN! Not all people will be "forced" to take insurance through the exchange! Did you know, IF you qualify, you'll be able to take the amount your boss pays for your insurance and use it instead to choose a plan on your own in the exchange.

Anyone who believes that Geraldo Rivera and Juan Williams present liberal perspectives has a warped view of the political spectrum. They are, at best, moderates. FOX news has periodically been caught giving misleading information, and, sometimes, just plain lies. Remember that Roger Ailes, he of the infamous Willie Horton Ad, helped make FOX a big deal. FOX insisted, more than once, that WMD's had actually been found in Iraq. Here's the big difference between FOX and, say, MSNBC: FOX claims to be doing news. MSNBC claims to be doing commentary. One requires facts, the other consists of opinion. FOX often presents opinions as facts, and many of its viewers go right along with it, because FOX is, generally, confirming their opinions, regardless of how biased, bigoted, or small-minded they may be.

Does anyone remember the DOCTORED video in the wake of the Adam Lanza shooting that was released and confirmed by ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and the like? But that's fine, it's commentary, I forgot. I apologize for using my brain. The Obama Admn. has been shown to use loopholes in laws to further the President's increasingly authoritarian agenda. Mandating hospitals to perform abortions regardless of the religious orientation of said hospitals? I don't claim to be any sort of intellectual by any means, but the hypocrisy of the left on fact-checking and transparency matters pertaining to media and Presidential Administrations is utterly astounding. Your's truly, A 17 year old.

Using your brain is fine, but it could stand some fine tuning. Your wording, "...that was released and confirmed by ABC, NBC, MSNBC and the like..." obscures rather than clarifies how this happened: the video was first aired by MSNBC, then aired again by others without challenge; that is not the same as "released and confirmed by..." all of them. And who is "the like"? <blockquote>Mandating hospitals to perform abortions regardless of the religious orientation of said hospitals?"</blockquote> A statement in the form of an unanswered question is a technique often used to create misleading impressions. Specifics, please.

Now if Gingrich and his cohorts would just play well with others, the country would be better off. But they talk a good game and then have Fox to cheer them on when they are giving away the store to their financial supporters. Co-operation? Not in this lifetime when a takeover of the government and a return to Puritanism and the plantation economy are the goals..... Respect? One has to earn it and the people who earn my respect are those who believe in social equality instead of rule by the force of the most powerful...... People who don't study history are most surprised when history repeats itself...... Propaganda rules and we never forget that as we watch it all unfold. SCOTUS has sealed our fate..... we have no chance now of avoiding oligarchy......

You say Fox is a propaganda machine? What about MSNBC, ABC, CBS, et al. When it comes to politics, NOTHING is fair and balanced

READ THE TITLE!! THIS article is about Fox! Please be pertinent - comments like this are a waste of time.