Media Matters, as part of its guerrilla-style operation against Fox News, may have uncovered one of the most damaging revelations yet: Audio of the Fox exec in charge of political coverage admitting that he repeatedly speculated on the air during the 2008 campaign about Obama’s alleged socialist tendencies, even though he privately found the notion “far fetched.”
But what may be even more interesting than this revelation is the Fox exec’s defense of it, and what that defense tells us about Fox’s attitude towards news reporting.
The audio uncovered by Media Matters shows Fox vice president Bill Sammon saying the following during a 2009 cruise:
You know, speaking of mischief, last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to quote, “spread the wealth around.” At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.
Howard Kurtz contacted Sammon for comment, and here’s how Sammon defended himself:
In an interview, Sammon says his reference to “mischevious speculation” was “my probably inartful way of saying, ‘Can you believe how far this thing has come?’” The socialism question indeed “struck me as a far-fetched idea” in 2008. “I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation.”
He doesn’t regret repeatedly raising it on the air because, Sammon says, “it was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media” — and by 2009 he was “astonished by how the needle had moved.”
That’s pretty remarkable. Sammon is conceding that the idea did indeed strike him as far fetched in 2008, even though he and his network aggressively promoted it day in and day out throughout the campaign. And he’s defending this by pointing out that the idea ended up gaining traction, as if this somehow justifies the original act of dishonesty!
Now, Sammon is also claiming here that Obama’s behavior in office ultimately persuaded him that the original diagnosis of Obama as a socialist turned out to be correct after all. That in itself, of course, is also a ridiculous falsehood. But that aside, the bottom line here is that he doesn’t regret having spread an idea he personally found far-fetched, because so doing helped ensure that the far-fetched idea ultimately gained widespread acceptance. That’s a peculiar attitude for a “news” executive, isn’t it?