In February, Media Matters obtained a 2008 e-mail by Sammon, encouraging Fox News employees to push the idea that Obama is a socialist ahead of the election.
But in new audio obtained by Media Matters, Sammon tells an audience on a high-priced Mediterranean cruise sponsored by the conservative Hillsdale College that he didn't think it was true:
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. 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.
Sammon's argument was that he realized after the 2009 auto industry bailout that the idea was not so crazy after all: "All of a sudden, the debate over whether America was heading for socialism seemed anything but far-fetched."
"The debate over whether America is headed for socialism seems all too real," he said, "especially to those who still believe in capitalism."
Here's the audio:
In an interview today with Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, Sammon said that in 2008 "I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation" about whether Obama is a socialist, but describing it as "mischievous speculation" was "my probably inartful way of saying, 'Can you believe how far this thing has come?'"
Kurtz writes that Sammon also said "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.'"
Sammon has also been caught telling staff to question the existence of climate change.