Thursday, December 9, 2010

I agree with Fox News about the 'public option'

Everybody knows that Fox News is a messaging machine for the GOP, so I tend not to get worked up about new examples of the phenomenon. What's the point? But even by my relaxed standards, I really can't get worked up about this:

On Oct. 27, the day after Senate Democrats introduced a bill with a public insurance option from which states could opt out, Bill Sammon, a Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor, sent the staff a memo. Sammon is a former Washington Times reporter.  

“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible,” the memo said. 

I have no doubt the phrasing served Republican ends. But I don't care, actually, because the term is also accurate.

There's nothing wrong with "public option." But compared to "government option," the former phrase actually is less descriptive of the issue at play. Liberals -- including me -- were arguing that a government-run health insurance plan be added to the list of private insurance options Americans would have once health reform was passed. In that case, the word "public" possibly obscures more than it reveals to the average American citizen.

That's not to uphold Fox News as a journalistic paragon. It isn't. But if liberals are angry that the channel described a government-run plan as a government-run plan, we've got bigger problems than Luntzian messaging on our hands. 


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