Liberal media watchdog Media Matters has released its third in a series of internal emails from Fox News Managing Editor Bill Sammon, and it’s a doozy. The memo, sent a week before Election Day 2008, reads like the oppo research “fact sheets” that the various presidential campaigns sent out to reporters during that election cycle, with a key difference. The source, in this case, was not a politician’s press office, but the Washington deputy managing editor of a major news network.
Previous memos from Sammon have instructed Fox News talent on how to frame discussion of health care reform and climate change, and while they were embarrassing, this one takes the cake. Sent in the wake of a Barack Obama interview that surfaced in the closing days of the 2008 campaign, Sammon’s memo collects out-of-context quotes from Obama’s autobiography, Dreams of My Father, that Sammon said showed “references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists,” along with “a couple of his many self-described ‘racial obsessions’.”
The style and content of the memo mimic campaign opposition research more convincingly than the most deadpan Onion parody.
Fox News has consistently rested its credibility on the premise that there is a dividing line between their “straight news” and “opinion” programming. But Sammon’s status as a “straight news” editor, and his use of this “research” on Fox’s Live Desk belie that separation.
As I’ve said before, there are many fine journalists who work at Fox News, some of whom are colleagues of mine on the White House beat. Sammon’s continued presence at the network threatens to diminish their work, and you have to wonder how long the talent at Fox News will put up with embarrassments like these before they head out the door, or before Sammon does.
You can see the full memo at Media Matters.
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