This morning, Media Matters revealed that Fox News editor chief Bill Sammon admitted to lying on-air about Barack Obama embracing "socialism" before the 2008 election. The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz contacted Sammon for his response:
In an interview, Sammon says his reference to "mischevious speculation" was "my probably inartful way of saying, 'Can you believe how far this thing has come?'" The socialism question indeed "struck me as a far-fetched idea" in 2008. "I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation." He doesn't regret repeatedly raising it on the air because, Sammon says, "it was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media" -- and by 2009 he was "astonished by how the needle had moved."
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post picked apart Sammon's response, calling it "remarkable":
Now, Sammon is also claiming here that Obama's behavior in office ultimately persuaded him that the original diagnosis of Obama as a socialist turned out to be correct after all. That in itself, of course, is also a ridiculous falsehood. But that aside, the bottom line here is that he doesn't regret having spread an idea he personally found far-fetched, because so doing helped ensure that the far-fetched idea ultimately gained widespread acceptance. That's a peculiar attitude for a "news" executive, isn't it?
Adam Serwer of the American Prospect takes the next step, writing: "I'd say Sammon is retroactively justifying having lied on the basis that enough people now believe Obama is a socialist that he can convince himself of the charge's original veracity."
They're right. Sammon is essentially saying that he didn't believe it when he said it, but now people just like him say it all the time, so it was accurate before it was true. It's a pre-truth!
We've seen a similar phenomenon with Sarah Palin and the infamous "death panels." In 2009, Palin claimed that the Advanced Care Planning Consultation provision of the House health care bill constituted a "death panel." After that was debunked, right-wingers switched gears and claimed that the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board provision in the Senate health care bill amounted to a "death panel," which meant Palin was right all along, even though it was a different provision of a different bill (and still false).
In short, there's no claim too ridiculous that right-wingers can't retcon into some semblance of near-truth.