Last month, Media Matters uncovered audio of Fox News executive Bill Sammon boasting that he lied repeatedly during the closing days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air "about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism." Sammon's remarks were made onboard a pricey Mediterranean cruise sponsored by the right-wing Hillsdale College.
The Collegian, Hillsdale's newspaper, weighed in on the controversy in an editorial today criticizing both Sammon and Media Matters. The college paper wrote that "though the FOX news exec compromised his integrity by implying that he deliberately exaggerated about the then-candidate's socialism, we honestly don't think it's as big of a deal as the blog suggests. We hope Media Matters can find something better to do with its resources."
The editorial added of Sammon:
The larger issue, though, is just how we should respond to the allegations about Sammon. He said he engaged in some "rather mischievous speculation" about Obama's opinions on socialism. For us, that's a problem. Journalists are completely entitled to have opinions -- nobody wants to get their news from a robot. But it's one thing to have an opinion, and it's something else entirely to use opinion as a guise for mischievously mischaracterizing the opinions of a political candidate.
Did Sammon deceive viewers about his beliefs, or is Media Matters making a bigger deal out of this than necessary? We're not sure; we can't read Sammon's mind (we couldn't get ahold of him by press time). But his admission, regardless of how juicy it actually was, shows a problem symptomatic in contemporary political commentary on both sides of the political aisle: a shocking lack of sincerity on the part of opinionators.
So let's be honest about the facts, and about our opinions, and let's make an effort to prize the work of honest journalists. And hopefully we won't end up on the Daily Show again.
The Collegian reported in a separate article that one college administrator said the controversy won't affect their relationship with Sammon.
But it didn't bother college administrators.
"This does not have anything to do with us," said Vice President for External Affairs Doug Jeffrey, adding that he believes Media Matters is just trying to target FOX News.
"He didn't admit to lying," he said.
Timothy Caspar, associate vice president for External Affairs, said he believes the story is "more of an affair between Sammon and Media Matters." He said Sammon spoke previously on two other cruises.
Sammon has not spoken at a cruise since then, though Jeffrey said he is still on the list of possible speakers and that the incident will not change Hillsdale's relationship with Sammon.
"He said what he said," Jeffrey said.