Put Geraldo Rivera and Al Sharpton together, and you might fairly expect a few things -- but big news and deep insights? Not so much.
That, however, is what more than a few conservatives believe happened Sunday night, when Rivera interviewed Sharpton about healthcare reform for Fox News.
"I think that this began the transforming of the country the way the president had promised. This is what he ran on," Sharpton said of the House's passage of reform legislation. Geraldo being Geraldo, he interrupted Sharpton's thought to say something dumb: "Some would argue to socialism."
Sharpton responded, "Well, first of all, then you'd have to say that the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama. Let's not act as though the president didn't tell the American people -- the president promised the American people health reform when he ran, he was overwhelmingly elected running on that, and he has delivered what he promised. I don't understand Republicans saying this is against the will of the American people; they voted for President Obama, who said this was going to be one of the first things he would do."
That seems pretty clear, right? Sharpton's smacking down a talking point introduced by Geraldo by pointing out that, well, if this is socialism, then the American people voted for socialism. But for some on the right, what Sharpton's comment became was an admission that Obama and healthcare are socialist, and a declaration that the American people had voted for socialism in electing him.
Newsbusters -- a blog run by the Media Research Center, a conservative press watchdog -- appears to have been first to this misinterpretation. After that, it went viral pretty quickly. The Heritage Foundation's blog picked it up, and so did a number of other blogs. Finally, Monday night, the clip hit the bigtime, as Fox News' own Glenn Beck aired it on his show.
A spokeswoman for Sharpton didn't respond to requests for comment from Salon.
Update: Hadn't seen this when I published the post -- Beck's Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly was on the case too. And, judging from the transcript, it appears he cut off the clip after "Well, first of all, then you'd have to say that the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama," leaving out quite a bit of context.