Fox News, Hypocrisy, And “Politically Correct” Journalism

My earlier post about Megyn Kelly’s absurd equation of illegal immigration and rape in a discussion about changes to the Associated Press Style Guide reminded me of this little piece of news from earlier this month:

As Congress took up health care reform last year, considering a “public option” to give insurers competition, marching orders went down to the troops from Bill Salmon, Washington, D.C., managing editor at Fox News.

The memo is a roadmap on how to subtly slant news, and get the right wing’s “amen corner” fired up and ready to go.

“Subject: friendly reminder: lets not slip back into calling the ‘public option’,” wrote Salmon.

“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’.”

The timely advice came soon after Republican pollster Frank Luntz had offered on-air counsel to Fox host Sean Hannity.

“If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” Luntz said. “If you call it a government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

“A grat point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option because that is what it is,” replied Hannity, getting the message. Soon, his boss did to

If that’s not evidence of a news organization deliberately using language to influence public debate, I don’t know what is.

So, in addition to being rather dumb, Kelly’s criticism of the Associated Press is rather hypocritical.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Trumwill says:

    I’m somewhat ambivalent on the question of “illegal” vs. “undocumented” immigrants, but here’s a question: Kelly’s hypocrisy aside, do we really want Fox News as a benchmark of journalistic integrity/objectivity?

  2. An Interested Party says:

    “…do we really want Fox News as a benchmark of journalistic integrity/objectivity?”

    Depends on who you ask…certainly some around here seem to think of Fox News as some kind of corrective to the “liberal” MSM…

  3. James Young says:

    So what’s the problem? Some people insist, inter alia, on calling government schools “public schools.”

    I suspect that your latest manifestation of your leftward lurch is that Conservatives are finally doing what the far Left has done (and understood) for years: controlling the terms of the debate is controlling the debate.