BILL SAMMON SAYS THE DARNDEST THINGS…. Any reasonable consumer of American media has come to expect shameless hackery from leading Fox News figures, but the Republican network’s managing D.C. editor, Bill Sammon, certainly makes it more difficult for Fox News to even keep up appearances.

In newly uncovered audio, a Fox News executive boasts 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.”

Speaking in 2009 onboard a pricey Mediterranean cruise sponsored by a right-wing college, Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon described his attempts the previous year to link Obama to “socialism” as “mischievous speculation.” Sammon, who is also a Fox News vice president, acknowledged that “privately” he had believed that the socialism allegation was “rather far-fetched.”

“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,’ ” said Sammon. “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.”

So, let me get this straight. Fox News’ Washington managing editor, shortly before a presidential election, deliberately advanced a smear against the Democratic candidate that even he didn’t believe? And he’s willing to admit this publicly?

Try to imagine, just for a moment, what the reaction might be if NBC News’ top editor in Washington had said this. Or worse, NPR’s.

Also note the larger context here. Shortly before Election Day 2008, Sammon not only repeated talking points he considered dubious, he also wrote a memo urging Fox News’ on-air talent to link Obama to “Marxists” and “socialism.”

What’s more, we recently learned that Sammon ordered the network’s journalists to downplay the science of global warming, and circulated a memo telling Fox News reporters to use Republican-endorsed rhetoric, exclusively, to describe the public option during the health care debate.

If I didn’t know better, I might think Sammon has some kind of partisan political agenda or something.

Is any of this surprising? Of course not; Fox News is obviously a Republican propaganda outlet. But when examples like Sammon’s come to public light, it helps add additional weight to the larger indictment against the ridiculous cable news outlet.

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.