SHEP SMITH LOWERS THE BOOM…. Fox News’ Shep Smith has been known to occasionally break party ranks. Despite his employer’s and colleagues’ efforts, Smith has, among other things, denounced torture and admonished some Fox News viewers for their over-the-top vitriol.

But his interview with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on health care reform yesterday was one for the books. The far-right senator probably expected a friendly exchange on the Republicans’ cable news network. What Barrasso received was far different.

Ben Armbruster posted a lengthy transcript for those of you who can’t watch clips from your work computers, but I’d encourage folks to watch it at some point. From start to finish, Shep Smith wouldn’t tolerate GOP talking points, and offered the kind of spirited defense of a public option few would expect from Fox News.

Early on, Barrasso called the notion of public-private competition a “government takeover of health care.” Smith wouldn’t hear of it: “It’s not a government take over Senator. That’s not fair and we both know it. It’s not a government takeover because what it would be is a government option if you have insurance now and you like it you can keep it. If you want the government option, a government run, paid for by those who buy it, government run option to try to keep costs down.”

Barrasso tried to change the subject, commenting on Medicare budget issues, so Smith focused the discussion. “Over the last 10 years health care costs in American have skyrocketed. Regular folks cannot afford it, so they tax the system by not getting preventive medicine,” Smith said. “And we all end up paying for it. As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry’s profits, on average, have gone up 350 percent. And it’s the insurance companies which have paid and which have contributed to senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle to the point where now we can’t get what all concerned on Capitol Hill all seem to [believe] and more than 60 percent of Americans say they support, a public option.”

It’s unusual to hear media figures connect industry contributions to policymaking hurdles. It’s unheard of on FNC.

Smith added, “What happens for the American people when we come out with legislation now which requires everyone to have health care insurance — or many more people — but does not give a public option, therefore millions more people will have to buy insurance from the very corporations that are over charging us and whose profits have gone up 350 percent in the last ten years. It seems like we, the people, are the ones getting the shaft here.”

Barrasso, perhaps in shock, responded that “we have not allowed the American people to read the bill.” Yeah, that’s a persuasive answer to a question about consumers getting screwed.

Smith replied, “Every vote against the public option is a vote for the insurance companies, sir. It is. How can you disagree with that?”

In general, I think it’s a mistake for Democratic lawmakers to appear on Fox News. That said, I wouldn’t mind watching Shep Smith press Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and other Democratic opponents of a public option. He seems to understand the issue pretty well.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.