The Media Matter revelation last week that Fox News' managing editor Bill Sammon was pushing his news team to talk up a possible connection between "socialism" and "Marxists" with then-candidate Barack Obama in late 2008, is instructive for all kinds of reasons.
Not only do the leaked memos continue to help paint a damning portrait of Fox News from the inside, but they also confirm that it's not simply the nighttime opinion shows that wallow in smears and misinformation. It's also Fox's so-called news programming that play the partisan, political game. (Somebody please notify James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal, who continues to cling to a fantasy about Fox's daytime "news" programming.)
As Mediaite noted in the wake of Media Matters' reporting, Sammon's memo read like a fact sheet, straight from the McCain/Palin headquarters:
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 raise legitimate questions about that separation, or at least blurs a line that should be clear cut.
But what the Fox News memos also bring into focus is that Rupert Murdoch's team did not unleash its relentless campaign against the Obama presidency on the day he was inaugurated in 2009. Instead, the seeds of that media-led revolt were planted during the waning days of the 2008 campaign.
In early 2009 I was struck at the right-wing media's almost volcanic reaction to the Obama presidency. The new Democratic president hadn't even been in office 30 days and already hardcore Obama-hating activists were orchestrating protests in the streets while far-right media players were condemning Obama as some kind of enemy of the state. We'd never seen anything like that in modern American history. I mean, George Bush had to rely on a friendly Supreme Court ruling in order to become president. Yet one month into his first term there wasn't some kind of collective, left-wing freak-out in the streets over his presidency.
And yes, the vivid 2009 freak-out seemed to be in stark contrast to much of the fall 2008 campaign, where those radical voice of dissents seemed to be somewhat muted. Sure, Sean Hannity railed away on Fox News and called Obama every conceivable name in the book during the closing months of the campaign. But with all the polls showing Obama was a sure-fire winner, that level of vitriol never seemed to reach a boiling point.
But it sure did in January and February of 2009. Of course, that's also when Glenn Beck joined Fox News and was allowed to unleash the crazy in a way we've never seen before in cable "news" before. (Beck, circa winter of 2009: Obama has "Marxist tendencies" and is "addicting this country to heroin -- the heroin that is government slavery.") And ever since that point, the Obama-hating far-right media have been competing amongst themselves to prove who can hate the President of the United States more, who can impugn his intentions most often and who, via incoherent conspiracies, can blame him for every conceivable problem that arises.
That's the norm now. Obama Derangement Syndrome has been codified.
What the Sammon memo's show us is that this turn toward the absurd was being plotted in late 2008. Also, Fox News never had any intention of accepting the outcome of the election, and it was never going to portray Obama as a legitimate American president.