By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 6:21 PM
Fox News Channel's top Washington editor ordered the network's reporters to couple any mention of global climate change with skepticism about the data underlying such a scientific conclusion, according to an e-mail released by a liberal media-watchdog group Wednesday.
Media Matters for America said the internal e-mail from Bill Sammon, Fox News's Washington managing editor, called into question the network's impartiality in reporting on climate change.
In an e-mail sent last December to Fox News's journalists in the wake of a global conference on climate change, Sammon asked Fox journalists to "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. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies."
Media Matters, a group that tracks alleged conservative favoritism in the news media, said it obtained the e-mail from a Fox News employee, whom it did not identify.
Sammon and Fox News could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sammon's climate-change comments were in the second leaked e-mail from him to Fox News's staff released by Media Matters in the past week. Last week, the organization disclosed an e-mail in which Sammon directed Fox journalists to refer to the so-called public option provisions of the proposed health-care overhaul bill as the "government option"- language that Media Matters said was designed to rally opponents of the measure.
Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters' head of research, said the latest e-mail showed that Fox News was attempting to create a false impression of the climate issue by giving a "fringe" minority of global-warming skeptics equal weight with those who have concluded the planet is growing warmer.
"The overwhelming, vast majority of scientists who have studied climate change" accept the trend as fact, he said.
Rabin-Havt asserted that Fox was tilting toward conservatives who oppose potential legislative efforts to address climate change.
Media Matters said it is in possession of other internal e-mails from Sammon and other Fox News executives that indicate other efforts to slant news reporting. Those memos will be released in coming weeks, the group said.