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Calvin Freiburger

Hot Post: Media Matters Incites a Word War with Fox News Over Term “Public Option”

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Posted on December 12 2010 5:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

This popular post was originally published on Thursday, December 9.

Language is a powerful tool. Those who define what words mean (or are at least believed to mean) can drastically influence our government and culture. According to the Left’s lexicon, killing is “choice,” racial discrimination is “affirmative action,” thought control is “sensitivity training,” and property confiscation is “economic justice.” But does the Right play similar propaganda games?

At the Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz seems to think so. Today he reports on a “new” Media Matters attack on Fox News.

As the health-care debate was heating up in the summer of 2009, Republican pollster Frank Luntz offered Sean Hannity some advice.

Luntz, who counseled the GOP on how to sell the 1994 Contract With America, told the Fox News host to stop using President Obama’s preferred term for a key provision.

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

“A great point,” Hannity declared. “And from now on, I’m going to call it the government option, because that’s what it is.”

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.

The possibility that Sammon’s motives were partisan and that he was trying to influence Fox’s viewers against ObamaCare can’t be completely dismissed—“government option” polls the way Republicans want it to, and as Kurtz points out, Sammon is a right-leaning commentator who wrote several conservative books. Accordingly, I have scant patience for Sammon objecting, “Have I said things where I take a conservative view? Give me specifics.”

That said, there’s an obvious flip side that Kurtz and Media Matters ignore.

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