Leaked memos cast doubt on Fox News' claim of neutrality

America's most influential right-wing media outlet is facing up to the chilling prospect of having a whistleblower in its own newsroom.

Two internal memos from Fox News' Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, have found their way into the public domain in recent days via the liberal website Media Matters.

They detail how the news organisation which bills itself "fair and balanced" has made its reportage anything but.

At issue in the supposedly-secret directives is semantics; specifically the language that Fox correspondents use when discussing two of the most controversial items on Barack Obama's presidential agenda: healthcare reform and climate change. Sammon, according to critics, at least, is shown by the emails to be ensuring that coverage of the Obama agenda carries a hostile bias. That would directly contradict Fox's official policy, which has always been to insist that while commentators such as Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, its news teams are unbiased.

The first leaked memo, made public last week, was sent by Sammon last October, shortly after the US Senate unveiled a health bill which included a provision that would give the public sector a small role in providing medical insurance to Americans.

This provision was widely described at the time as the "public option", but Sammon decreed that Fox should instead describe it using one of three sanctioned phrases: "government-run health insurance", "government option" or "so-called public option".

All three of those phrases had previously been identified by Republican Party researchers as polling badly among the US electorate. The phrase Sammon outlawed ("public option") by contrast inspired positive reaction.

The second intriguing directive from Sammon leaked on Wednesday. It was sent to Fox staff in the run-up to this year's Copenhagen climate summit and ordered that any mention of climate change on the station should be coupled with an expression of scepticism regarding its very existence.

Reporters should "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question," the memo read. "It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies." All but a tiny handful of global warming sceptics accept that the Earth's temperature has risen in recent decades.

Sceptics instead tend to deny that temperature change is linked to human activity and claim it is, in any case,rendered insignificant when viewed against longer-term trends.

So Fox duly found its journalistic practices in the firing line yesterday. "The network's coverage regularly gives unwarranted weight to anti-scientific claims regarding climate change," read a statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Al Gore, for his part, published a blog entry, claiming: "Fox News has consistently delivered false and misleading information to its viewers about the climate crisis. The leaked emails now suggest that this bias comes directly from the executives responsible for their news coverage."

Sammon's line on climate change contradicts that of Fox – and Newscorp – owner Rupert Murdoch. In 2007, Mr Murdoch said: "Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."

The world according to Fox

* On his radio show last week, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck alleged that 10 per cent of the world's Muslims are terrorists, asking "why isn't this receiving coverage?" The reason: the real figure is closer to 0.1 per cent.



* Last November, Fox host Gregg Jarrett told viewers to marvel at "huge crowds" attending the launch of Sarah Palin's memoir Going Rogue. Accompanying his spiel was footage of crowds watching Ms Palin speak. But that footage had been shot during the 2008 presidential election. The network later apologised for misleading viewers, blaming a "production error".



* A year ago, Republican lawmakers held a rally in Washington opposing Barack Obama's healthcare reform. Fox Host Sean Hannity spoke wistfully of the vast turnout of "between 20,000 and 45,000 people". But eagle-eyed viewers noted that crowds depicted on screen were in fact attendees at an entirely different (and much larger) event which had taken place in the Capitol two months earlier. Hannity later apologised for "an inadvertent mistake".



* During the 2004 election, Fox's Chief Political Correspondent, Carl Cameron, quoted Democrat candidate John Kerry calling himself a "metrosexual" who enjoyed getting manicures. One problem: the quote was fabricated. A spokesman for the network later apologised: "Carl Cameron made a stupid mistake, and he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgement."

Guy Adams

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine