Top Fox News Editor Pushed Staff to Smear Obama as "Socialist"
During the final days of the 2008 presidential race, Bill Sammon used his position as a top Fox News editor to engage in a campaign to link then-Sen. Barack Obama to "Marxists" and "socialism," internal Fox documents and a review of his televised appearances show.
On October 27, 2008, Sammon sent an email to colleagues highlighting what he described as "Obama's references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists" in his 1995 autobiography Dreams From My Father. Shortly after sending the email, Sammon -- then the network's Washington deputy managing editor -- appeared on two Fox News programs to discuss his research and also wrote a FoxNews.com piece about Obama's "affinity to Marxists" that was disseminated throughout the conservative blogosphere.
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 1:02 PM
To: 069 -Politics; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com)
Subject: fyi: Obama's references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists in his autobiography, "Dreams from My Father." Plus a couple of his many self-described "racial obsessions"...
* "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists." (Obama writing about his time at Occidental College in "Dreams.")
* After his sophomore year, Obama transferred to Columbia University. He lived on Manhattan's Upper East Side, venturing to the East Village for "thesocialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union," he recalled, adding: "Much of what I absorbed from the sixties was filtered through my mother, who to the end of her life would proudly proclaim herself an unreconstructed liberal."
* After graduating from Columbia in 1983, Obama spent a year working for a consulting firm and then went to work for "a Ralph Nader offshoot" in Harlem. "In search of some inspiration, I went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Black Panther fame, speak at Columbia. At the entrance to the auditorium, two women, one black, one Asian, were selling Marxist literature."
During this period, according to Obama, he began a serious romantic relationship.
* "There was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white," Obama wrote in "Dreams." "We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends, mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs." But Obama said their relationship was doomed by the racial difference. "I pushed her away," he recalled."The emotion between the races could never be pure; even love was tarnished by the desire to find in the other some element that was missing from ourselves. Whether we sought out our demons or salvation, the other race would always remain just that: menacing, alien, and apart."
* In June 1985, Obama was interviewed in New York by Marty Kaufman, a community organizer from Chicago. Obama recalled: "There was something about him that made me wary. A little too sure of himself, maybe. And white."
By that evening, the subject line of Sammon's email had been inserted -- word-for-word -- into show notes written in preparation for the next morning's Fox & Friends, which featured an appearance by Sammon.
The information in Sammon's email wasn't exactly breaking news. He had already published essentially the same research about Obama's 1995 memoir a year earlier in his book Meet the Next President. But Sammon, who has since been promoted to Washington managing editor, believed the "biased" media were failing to question Obama's purported links to radicals and socialism. Sammon also believed Sen. John McCain's campaign could gain momentum by capitalizing on those links.
For weeks, Sammon had used Fox's airwaves to promote efforts to tie Obama to socialism. On October 14, 2008, Sammon said that Obama's "spread the wealth" remark to Joe the Plumber "is red meat when you're talking to conservatives and you start talking about spread the wealth around. That is tantamount to socialism."
Sammon repeated the "tantamount to socialism" line about Obama's remark later that day, stating: "That's anathema to conservatives. That's the same as saying spread the misery around. That's basically tantamount to socialism. And that bothers a lot of people. So I think if McCain is going to have any chance of moving ahead, he's got to turn this economic discussion from something that's been hurting him for the last couple of weeks to something that can help him by focusing on what to do about the economy in the future."
On October 21, 2008, Sammon appeared on Greta Van Susteren's show, where he referred to Bill Ayers "talking about being a Marxist." Sammon then said, "I have read Barack Obama's books pretty carefully, and he in his own words talks about being drawn to Marxists. ... Now all this stuff's coming out about whether he's a socialist. I don't know why anyone is surprised by it, because if you read his own words and his sort of, you know, orientation coming up as a liberal through college and as a young man, it's not a huge shock."
Sammon appeared on Fox & Friends' October 25, 2008, program and said that the McCain campaign "has now picked up this socialism word on their own, and they're running with it. I think it's their one opportunity that they have to turn this economy into something that actually works for their campaign because as you know, for weeks the economy has been killing the McCain campaign and I think this helps them."
Then, on October 27, 2008, the Drudge Report posted audio of a 2001 radio interview with Obama. Fox News and conservative commentators distorted the interview, with some falsely claiming that Obama said it was a "tragedy" that the Supreme Court had not pursued "redistribution of wealth."
It was in this context Sammon sent his "Marxism" email to journalists at Fox.
Less than 90 minutes after sending the email, Sammon appeared on the October 27, 2008, broadcast of Fox's Live Desk -- one of Fox's supposedly straight news daytime programs -- to discuss, in co-anchor Martha MacCallum's words, how "quotes that you found earlier in one of Barack Obama's books" relate to questions about whether Obama's policies are "socialism." Sammon said Obama was "drawn to Marxists" and "socialists." Sammon declared that Obama had been posturing "as a moderate" when "his heart is really towards the hard left."
"If you read the autobiography of Barack Obama as I have done, his first autobiography, it's very telling," Sammon said. "He talks about these words that are being tossed around now. Socialism, liberalism, and Marxism came up in this Biden interview with this TV anchor, and Barack Obama talks about these terms in his books. And he was drawn to Marxists, and he was drawn to liberals, and he was drawn to socialists by his own admission as a young man."
MacCallum responded that Obama's past writings are "relevant at this time" because "there's been so much discussion about socialism, and Marxism."
When asked if he thought Obama might have changed his views over time, Sammon suggested Obama had not. Sammon cited the National Journal's ranking of "Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate" and said: "It wasn't just some random thing. He really is a liberal guy despite the way he postures, and has sort of been portrayed by the mainstream media as a very reasonable moderate kind of guy."
The next morning, October 28, 2008, Sammon appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss, in co-host Gretchen Carlson's words, how Obama "might agree" with claims that he's linked to Marxism. Sammon again quoted Obama's writing to claim he "may be a little bit more liberal than he presents himself."
Internal show notes compiled by Fox News producer Jennifer Cunningham in preparation for the program show that the segment was built around Sammon's email.
----- Original Message -----
From: Cunningham, Jennifer
To: 044 -Web Show Producers; 064 -Desk Assignment; 069 -Politics; 081- Radio; 085 - DC Booking; 100 -Media Relations; 162 -Promos; Brown, David; Glick, Alexis; Magee, Kevin; Moody, John; Scott, Suzanne; Shine, Bill; Tammero, Michael; Wallace, Jay
Sent: Mon Oct 27 18:17:41 2008
Subject: FOX & FRIENDS GUESTS FOR TUESDAY OCTOBER. 28 - EXACTLY 1 WEEK BEFORE ELECTION DAY
FOX & FRIENDS GUESTS FOR TUESDAY OCTOBER. 28 - EXACTLY 1 WEEK BEFORE ELECTION DAY
5:59 (A-BLOCK) COLD OPEN // QUICK TEASE
// News HEADLINES // TALKING POINTS
WX BUMP OUT TO TEASE
6:15 (B-BLOCK) - 2 STORIES
AMANDA CARPENTER - DEMS PLAYBOOK SHOWS DIRTY TACTICS ((DC BUREAU))
6:22 (C-BLOCK) - 2 STORIES ((ANCHOR))
& BILL SAMMON - FYI: OBAMA'S REFERENCES TO SOCIALISM, LIBERALISM, MARXISM AND MARXISTS IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY, "DREAMS FROM MY FATHER." PLUS A COUPLE OF HIS MANY SELF-DESCRIBED "RACIAL OBSESSIONS"... (( FOX DC ))
>> BDAY IN TEASE
"Joe Biden calls links to Obama and Marxism ridiculous, but there's somebody that might agree with those statements: Barack Obama," Carlson began. "He writes in his book Dreams From My Father that in college, he chose his friends carefully so as not to appear a sellout. Among his friends, Marxist professors; among his activities, attending socialist conferences."
Carlson asked Sammon to respond to the Obama campaign's statement that attempts to link Obama to socialism were, in Carlson's words, "a fake news story and that Fox is to blame for it."
"Well I say that it's interesting to go back and look at what this young guy's political leanings were when he was in college and shortly after college, and it is interesting," Sammon replied. "I mean, now that the words Marxist and socialist are being thrown around out there in the news cycle I thought it was interesting to go back and revisit what Barack himself said about Marxists and socialists in his book and it turns out he was drawn to Marxists and socialists as a young man."
Sammon added, "Now, let's be clear, I mean people had political ideologies in college that they don't necessarily have later in life. But I do think it indicates that he may be a little bit more liberal than he presents himself." Sammon went on to cite Obama's National Journal ranking. (For criticism of the National Journal ranking, see here.)
Sammon's attempts to link Obama to radicalism were reflected in Fox News' graphics. While Sammon spoke, on-air text read: "The Real Barack Obama; Aligned W/ Marxists, Socialists"; "Obama's Radical Past; Chose Friends W/ Marxist"; "Obama's Chosen Friends; Marxist Profs & Structural Feminists"; and "Obama's Racial Divide; 'Emotion B/W Races Never Be Pure.'"
That same day, October 28, 2008, FoxNews.com posted a piece by Sammon under the headline: "Obama Affinity to Marxists Dates Back to College Days."
Sammon wrote: "Obama laughs off charges of socialism. ... But Obama himself acknowledges that he was drawn to socialists and even Marxists as a college student. He continued to associate with Marxists later in life, even choosing to launch his political career in the living room of a self-described Marxist, William Ayers, in 1995, when Obama was 34. Obama's affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles."
Sammon added, "Obama has been widely criticized for choosing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an anti-American firebrand, as his pastor. Wright is a purveyor of black liberation theology, which analysts say is based in part on Marxist ideas."
Sammon was frustrated with other media outlets' coverage of Obama.
"Let me be clear: The media is biased," Sammon said on the October 23, 2008, edition of Live Desk. "I have spent a lifetime in the media. I spent ten years as a White House correspondent surrounded by my friends from other major news organizations. They're liberals. They just are."
On the October 27, 2008, edition of Live Desk, while discussing Obama's Dreams passages, Sammon complained that the media weren't forcing Obama to reconcile his campaign platform with the excerpts from his memoir.
"I hate to blame the media for everything, but he just hasn't been asked those kinds of tough questions."
In February 2009, Sammon became the managing editor of Fox's Washington, D.C., bureau.
In a staff memo announcing the promotion, John Moody, then-Fox News executive vice president of news editorial, thanked Sammon for bringing "energy, leadership and inspired thinking to his role as Deputy Managing editor over the past six months."