Is Fox News' Sammon a 'mischief' maker?
March 29th, 2011
04:20 PM ET
9 years ago

Is Fox News' Sammon a 'mischief' maker?

(CNN) - Washington Fox News executive Bill Sammon admitted in a newly released audio tape that in 2008 he repeatedly speculated about President Obama's support for socialism despite privately believing the idea was "far-fetched."

He made the comments before a group on a 2009 Mediterranean cruise sponsored by conservative Hillsdale College. A recording of the audio from the event was obtained by, a well-funded, liberal media watchdog organization that says it is committed to exposing conservative bias in the media, especially from Fox News.

Discussing the 2008 campaign for the presidency, Sammon said, "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."

Sammon, the managing editor of Washington, D.C. coverage for Fox News, then listed reasons he believes the "far-fetched" premise to be real one year after Obama took office. Among them: the Obama administration's "sweeping expansion of government regulation," and "concerted efforts" to "nationalize health care" as well as "impose a cap and trade regime which will profoundly reorder the rest of our economy and mandate massive transfers of wealth."

Sammon said he was originally spurred to think about socialism by Obama's own comments on the 2008 campaign trail, "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."

Media Matters is now crying foul, claiming that Sammon pushed an Obama-as-socialist agenda with the knowledge that the idea was unlikely. The group released e-mails sent from Sammon to Fox News staffers that highlight "Obama's references to socialism" in his autobiography "Dreams from My Father," and cited the executive's comments on-air. During the health care debate Sammon also sent a memo to staffers that encouraged use of the phrase "government-run health insurance" instead of "public option."

Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, Sammon, who described Obama's remark to Joe the Plumber as "red meat" for conservatives, repeatedly linked Obama's "spread the wealth around" comment to socialism during his October 2008 Fox appearances, according to the group.

But in an interview with Howard Kurtz for The Daily Beast, Sammon regarded his reference to mischief as an "inartful way of saying, 'Can you believe how far this thing has come?'" And, without regret for raising the socialism question on-air repeatedly, Sammon said "It was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media."

Kurtz hosts the program "Reliable Sources" on CNN.

When asked for comment on this story, Fox News referenced the Kurtz interview.

Filed under: Fox News • President Obama
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Rick James B----

    Like we really didn't know this....Republicans really know Obama isn't the boogy man or some Muslim terrorist...they just say things to place fear in their uneducated base.

    March 29, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. Pat in IL

    Want to keep your job at Fox? All you have to do is be a puppet. This person is not a true journalist, and should be ashamed of himself, as he is part of the example being set for earnest young journalist students.

    March 29, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Is this suposed to be some kind of cutesy-oopsey- look- at – all – the – crap – I started – how- brilliant – am – I – and- how- dumb- is – the – rest- of – America – for – believing – me revelation? Without, I might add, the obligatory accompanying regrets and apologies that good taste, let alone good journalism, would require?
    Sammon is a no-name, low-class putz.

    March 29, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. once upon a Horse

    believe it or not FoxNews does serve a purpose and dealing in facts is not part of it. Fox appeals to that sector of our society that not only doesn't want the president nor democrats to be successful, they also don't want to see nor hear about anything positive that Obama may do. So on Fox they get what they are looking for constant attacks, lack of facts, half-truths at that about our current administration. CNN and MSNBC et al are very good about factchecking or backing up there stories with facts, Fox allows such stuff as Huckabee and Palin making untrue statements about our military being run by foriegn countries and doesn't question it. After all stuff like this and what Sammon and company supply and the demand for it is there.

    March 29, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. gk

    "Far-fetched" is putting it mildly. FauxNews and the Tea Partyers– throw in Palin and birth-certificate-less Trump for good measure–are so far out in right field that they're not even in the stadium anymore. They've dumbed down American politics to levels that border on Twilight-Zone realities. Problem is it's not just them but millions of Americans who gobble up their dribble as if it's Gospel or something. Oh woe is America and that's not just in Lake Woebegone, MN either!

    March 29, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Sgt Schultz

    Obama is being pulled so far to the middle – that sometimes he is mistaken for being Bill Clinton. If anything Obama is not liberal enough. The fantasy tale that Obama is a "socialist" or "radical" is nothing more than Fox News spreading lies. Repeat the lies often enough – as in 24/7 on Fox "News" – and the lies themselves become true in the Conservative media establishment.

    March 29, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. Palin: Like Coulter ... Minus the Manparts

    I'll be more impressed when CNN starts to target other spurious "news" outlets rather than making it just about them and FAUX NEWS. That means CNN needs to stop exploiting everything and actually report FACTUAL news rather than their secretly sourced material from "inside the Beltway".

    March 29, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. ...

    Fox is so far to the right it makes everything else appear liberal.

    Faux News...we distort, you comply.

    March 29, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  9. Ron

    "Mischief maker?" No, from where I come from, we call those types of people "liars".

    And Fox dares call itself "fair and balanced" should be "unfair and imballanced".

    March 29, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. al in memphis

    Really this should make people sick. Our national politics is nothing more than an orchestrated event where people create sound bite and far-fetch notions, then look at every word someone says as proof of their on foolish creations.

    Voters rarely have an unbiased source of information to make a decision about who should lead this country. Stupid is as stupid does. All you have to do to get elected is rile the emotiions with a few sound bites and have the deep corporated pockets to pay for mudslining and you got yourself a winner.

    March 29, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. Mickey, NY

    Fox "News" is not a legitimate news organization, and should be treated as such. When Fox sued for their right to lie to Americans, citing their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, that should have been the red flag to the Fox News faithful.

    You are being lied to, plain and simple. How does that feel...being lied to by your SOLE news source? You might want to call Rupert Murdoch and as him for a kiss...most people like to be kissed while they are getting screwed.

    March 29, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Ron

    "Mischief maker?" No, from where I come from, we call those types of people "liars".

    And Fox dares call itself "fair and balanced" should be "unfair and imbalanced".

    March 29, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Seshu Kanuri

    Tell me something I dont know already! We all knew what Fox news is all about, so why is this surprising and why did it make the news today?

    March 29, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. richard, in kansas

    Is anyone really surprised that FOX manipulates the facts to further their right wing agenda?

    March 29, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. AEK

    What Fox "News" manufactures and delivers as news is not nearly as surprising and disturbing to me as the fact that there are that many hateful and gullible Americans that accept their crap as fact.

    March 29, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. The Big Lie

    You repeat The Big Lie often enough, some people will start believing it. There's Fox's business plan in a nutshell.

    March 29, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Probably would have gotten more traction if FOX News fans had been able to distinguish between their *isms* . . . instead of running with Sammon's comment by adding their own individual non-thinking, non-accurate Communism, Marxism, Liberalism, and Naxism into the fray. As it is, GOPers are more in line with Imperialist Socialism than Obama - they've been taking from the poor and giving to their rich masters for decades now. The pendulum of wealth redistribution swings both ways, GOPers.

    March 29, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Fox is an embarrassment to media, period. Their viewers are the most uninformed people in the country. Can you imagine 3 millions viewers who reflect the thoughts of Betty the birther.

    March 29, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. OneMoreTime

    All of Fox News is mischief. Can't comment anymore because my words would be more than "lively" and less than

    March 29, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. thomas

    Take him to court for slander with motive. This is not a question of free speech , this is conspiracy to defraud . Then fine Fox management for lack accountability , the FCC rules apply regarding disinformation.
    This is not a joke , such violations diminish and discredit our right to have an objective and honest free press!
    This guy should go to jail ! Our founding Fathers would roll over in there graves at such contempt for the truth .
    A strategy the British Crown used to condemn our founding Fathers. After all Fox is owned by a Australian and a Saudi !

    March 29, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. Shannon

    Does anyone really believe that FOX has any integrity, or that it's a legitimate news organization. The are constantly lying, only the truly ignorant get their news from FOX. I can always tell a FOX viewer, they go around telling people that the President spent 200 million dollars to travel to India.

    March 29, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  22. AnaHadWolves

    As a thirty-year major market broadcaster who has worked with FOX "News" representatives, I can state categorically that they are not interested in hard news but character assassination, propaganda, inuendo and outright lies. From Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch on down to the lowliest gopher, FOX "News" is one gigantic source of Goebbels-esque prattle, twaddle and opprobrium.

    Mr. Sammon, having been caught red-handed in his rancid and fetid attempt to smear President Obama, should have the decency to admit his part in this travesty, resign and never again be a part of anything even remotely resembling journalism. FOX, on the other hand, continues unabated to be a cesspool of putrification with no credibility, no soul and certainly no ethics.

    Those of us within the broadcast/journalistic community look forward to the day when FOX "News" will be, as Shakespeare so eloquently wrote, "hoist by their own petard" and dismissed as the vile, vindictive, vicious and vacuous vermin they are.

    March 29, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  23. Kevin,FL

    Fox "News" is a arm of the Republican Party... I'm sure if a CNN executive did or said something like this they would be fired...the only person on Fox I can tolerate is Shep Smith..

    PS- John Roberts was the money worth selling your soul to the devil? (He's now with Fox)

    March 29, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. Larry L

    This is from the folks who brought us the Swift Boat lies. Lying is a time-tested tool of the conservative methodology. Sadly, they don't see this dishonorable behavior as the unpatriotic act it represents. Attacking a political rival on policy is simply politics. Attacking with lies is something we expect from enemies of our country. Each day the GOP shows itself to be nothing more than a puppet of some very wealthy, very evil individuals.

    March 29, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. iheartdems1

    So, Sammon admits to being a liar and pushing an agenda when it was his job to be objective and non partisan. And this happened on Fox News Channel, home to right wing propoganda. And people are outraged and surprised because.....?

    March 29, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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