Speaking in 2009 onboard a pricey Mediterranean cruise sponsored by a right-wing college, Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon described his attempts the previous year to link Obama to "socialism" as "mischievous speculation." Sammon, who is also a Fox News vice president, acknowledged that "privately" he had believed that the socialism allegation was "rather far-fetched."
"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,' " said Sammon. "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."
Indeed, in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election, Sammon used his Fox position to engage in a campaign to tie Obama to "Marxists" and "socialism." A Media Matters review found that Sammon - then the network's Washington deputy managing editor - repeatedly linked Obama's "spread the wealth around" remark to socialism during his October 2008 Fox appearances.
Sammon's "mischief" wasn't limited to his on-air appearances. As Media Matters reported, Sammon also pushed Fox News colleagues to play the socialism card. On October 27, 2008, Sammon sent an email to staffers 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 appeared on two Fox News programs to discuss his research and also wrote a FoxNews.com piece about Obama's "affinity to Marxists."
On October 14, 2008, Sammon said that Obama's "spread the wealth around" remark "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 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 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."
On October 25, 2008, Sammon said: "As soon as I heard Barack Obama say, and it's gone on almost two weeks ago - two weeks ago -- 'spread the wealth around,' I mean, the red flag went up. I mean, that's just code - and I knew that conservatives would say, 'That is exactly code for income redistribution which is tantamount to socialism.' And I talked about this for several days right after it happened. And the McCain campaign has now picked up this socialism word on their own, and they're running with it."
"I think some of these substantive issues, such as, you know, higher taxes, are we going to head more towards a socialistic government, could play in McCain's favor," Sammon said on October 27, 2008, after Fox aired a clip of Obama responding to McCain's accusations of socialism.
"I do think that when you start talking about 'spread the wealth around,' which is what Barack Obama said to Joe the Plumber, and now this new radio thing that came up today where he talks about redistributing the wealth, you know, those two things together are tantamount to socialism to conservatives," Sammon added later in the October 27 interview. "That's red meat. That'll fire up the conservative base, who had been a little bit dispirited."During an October 28, 2008, appearance on Fox & Friends, Sammon again said Obama "was drawn to Marxist and socialists as a young man" before adding, "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 say that Obama "was drawn to Marxists, he was drawn to liberals, he was drawn to socialists by his own admission as a young man, so I think even though he postures as a moderate now as a presidential candidate, I think his heart is really towards the hard left, and we may see whether that comes out as he governs, if in fact he wins."
Later in the interview, Sammon said that "there certainly is a consistency there when you look at the people he was drawn to going to socialist conferences, hanging out with Marxist professors, going to see Stokely Carmichael, even after he got out of college, for inspiration. The former Black Panther. And then you look later at life, where his association with Bill Ayers, the radical. You look at his association with the Reverend Wright. It does make you wonder whether indeed some of his leanings in his college days still carry through today, only are a little bit more fuzzed up because he's a politician who's running for high office. And I think it's worth examining."
Sammon made his startling admission during an August 2, 2009, speech onboard a 12-day cruise sponsored by Hillsdale College. Conservative writers Walter Williams, Paul Johnson, and Victor Davis Hanson also gave lectures. A Hillsdale newsletter states that "in addition to giving lectures, guest speakers also hosted private dinners for invited guests, and joined in the daytime excursions and camaraderie with their fellow 136 Hillsdale friends and nine Hillsdale staff."
A brochure for the cruise promised attendees a "great opportunity to gather and discuss history and ideas with noted scholars and like-minded friends of Hillsdale." Cabin rates ranged from $11,800 to $37,600 per couple.
The National Review has described Hillsdale as "a citadel of American conservatism," and the conservative Young America's Foundation has listed Hillsdale as one of the top conservative colleges in the country. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin have issued fundraising appeals touting the college's conservative credentials. Rush Limbaugh has also done on-air radio advertisements for Hillsdale.
During his cruise speech, Sammon said that while he found his own socialism speculation "far-fetched" in October 2008, it was actually proven correct during the first months of Obama's presidency.
"Now imagine my surprise when this year, I witness President Barack Obama standing in the cross hall of the White House and having taken over the American car industry, look into the camera, and announce to the nation essentially, that he would personally vouch for the warranty on your car's muffler," Sammon said on the cruise. "All of a sudden, the debate over whether America was heading for socialism seemed anything but far-fetched."