Media revive, retool, and create anti-Gore smears and attacks

››› ››› SIMON MALOY & JULIE MILLICAN

In recent weeks, in the wake of the Academy Award nomination and subsequent victory for former Vice President Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), in the best documentary feature category, followed by his testimony in both the House and Senate on global warming, the media have resuscitated old smears and falsehoods that may have been decisive in the 2000 presidential campaign. In some cases, media figures have retooled these attacks to apply to his work on global warming, and, in others, have come up with entirely new smears.

Gore as a "liar" or "exaggerator"

  • On March 21, following Gore's testimony on global warming before the House and Senate environment committees, McClatchy Newspapers uncritically reported Rep. Joe Barton's (R-TX) assertion that Gore is "totally wrong" that the burning of fossil fuels and coal contributes to rising global temperatures. McClatchy reported only that Barton "scolded" Gore for being "not just off a little," but "totally wrong," and did not note the scientific consensus supporting Gore's beliefs.
  • In a March 22 article, The Washington Times reported that "[t]he only scientist to testify at either hearing called Mr. Gore's assertions 'wildly exaggerated,' and quoted Bjorn Lomborg, "adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Denmark," as stating that Gore "has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios [that are] unlikely to form the basis for sound policy judgment."

As Media Matters has noted (here and here), Lomborg has a history of misrepresenting Gore's global warming claims, and his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, September 2001), has been discredited by several well-known environmental specialists.

  • In his March 22 "Inside the Beltway" column, Washington Times columnist John McCaslin suggested Gore's global warming warnings to be exaggerated. McCaslin asked: "Where's spring?" and wrote: "Normal high temperature for March 21 in Washington: 57," adding, "Temperature at 2 p.m. yesterday when former Vice President Al Gore testified on Capitol Hill about global warming: 43 (wind chill 38)."
  • Reviving a familiar falsehood from the 2000 campaign, on the March 21 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Republican strategist Terry Holt stated that Gore "claimed to have invented the Internet, among many other things." In fact, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted, Gore did not claim to have "invented the Internet"; rather, during the March 9, 1999, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer that gave rise to the myth, Gore actually said: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

As Bob Somerby noted in a March 22 post on his weblog, The Daily Howler, during the March 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Weekly Standard executive editor and Fox News contributor Fred Barnes called Gore "a wild exaggerator" and stated, in support, that a "U.N. panel ... says, over the rest of this century, the sea level, because of global warming, will rise 23 inches, Al Gore talks about 20 feet. There's a big difference there." Barnes was presumably referring to a March 13 New York Times article, which repeated a false comparison made by Gore critics to suggest that his claims are contradicted by findings in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

  • Also, as Media Matters noted, on the March 21 edition of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris reported that "scientists do quibble a little bit about some of the facts" Gore presents in his film and elsewhere and suggested that Gore has exaggerated some of the facts. Harris apparently distorted Gore's statements about melting Arctic ice in asserting that Gore made "a few scientists a bit uncomfortable" by making predictions that "sound[ed]" overly "precise."
  • As Media Matters has noted, in his March 19 column -- titled "Whose Ox is Gored?" -- Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund repeated misinformation from the March 13 New York Times article and produced some of his own to accuse Gore of "environmental exaggerations and hypocrisy."

Gore as a "hypocrite"

Numerous media figures and outlets seized on a recent press release by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR), which made misleading and unsubstantiated claims about Gore's home energy bills to suggest Gore is hypocritical in his fight to combat global warming. The reports on Gore's energy bills often omitted some or all of the steps Gore has reportedly taken to reduce the effect of his energy usage, including, as the weblog Think Progress noted, signing up for green power through Green Power Switch and "purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family's carbon footprint." For example:

  • On March 22, the Associated Press reported that Tennessee State Rep. Stacey Campfield (R) considered "adding an amendment to name Gore the 'hypocrite of the year' " because of "high energy consumption at his Belle Meade home." The article did not report on the steps the Gores have taken to reduce the effects of their energy use.
  • On the March 21 edition of Scarborough Country, Holt stated that Gore is "just a hypocrite" because "he himself uses more energy in one month at his house in Tennessee than most people use in an entire year at their house."
  • Also in his March 19 column, Fund wrote that TCPR "obtained public records showing that for years Mr. Gore has burned through more electricity at his Nashville home each month than the average American family uses in a year." But in explaining Gore's attempts to reduce his effect on global warming, Fund wrote only that "Mr. Gore's office responded by claiming that the Gores 'purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero,' " while omitting Gore's use of "green power."
  • As Media Matters noted, in a column appearing in the March 26 issue of Time magazine, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer repeated allegations that Gore's "Tennessee mansion consumes 20 times the electricity used by the average American home," but in explaining Gore's attempts to reduce his effect on global warming, Krauthammer wrote only that he "spends pocket change on carbon credits."
  • On the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, as Media Matters documented, host Tucker Carlson said he was judging Gore by "the rules [Gore] set out" and asked Competitive Enterprise Institute president Fred L. Smith Jr. if Gore was "living like a king, at the expense of our planet. Am I missing something?" Carlson noted the "quote, 'offsets' " as Gore's "defen[se]" of what Carlson called "quite a big carbon footprint," but agreed with Smith that such "offsets" are like "indulgences" from "the Middle Ages."
  • On the February 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host Kitty Pilgrim noted that TCPR "says that Gore's own home uses 20 times the national average for power." Radio host Joe Madison argued that "put[ting on] solar panels" is "a good flip-flop." Radio host Mark Simone claimed that Gore was only installing panels " 'cause he got caught."
  • On the February 27 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, host Glenn Beck asserted that Gore "has a huge carbon footprint" and said that the "the Gores paid almost $30,000 in gas and electric in 2006." Beck did not report any of Gore's reported efforts to reduce the effect of his energy usage.
  • On the February 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity asked actor Ed Begley Jr. if Begley had the "the courage to say, when [Gore] travels around in private jets, when [Gore's] using this type of energy, 20 times the national average, that [Gore's] a hypocrite?" Hannity added that Gore's energy use "is pure, Class A hypocritical living." In response, co-host Alan Colmes noted the Gores' use of "green power."
  • In his February 28 "Inside Politics" column, Washington Times columnist Greg Pierce cited part of a February 26 ABCNews.com article, which noted TCPR's criticism of Gore's "environmental hypocrisy." While the ABCNews.com article quoted a Gore spokeswoman saying that the Gores "purchas[ed] their power through the local Green Power Switch program," the Times included the same Gore spokeswoman saying only that the Gores "work out of their home" and that all that "Gore has asked is for families to calculate that footprint and take steps to reduce and offset it."
  • In a February 28 editorial, The Washington Times not only asserted that "Gore apparently thinks he should be exempted personally from his own carbon morality," but repeated the myth that Gore was "busy inventing the Internet" as apparently the reason for his high power consumption. As Media Matters noted, the assertion that Gore claimed to "invent[] the Internet" has been thoroughly debunked.

Gore as an incompetent campaigner

As Media Matters further documented, in a March 20 column, Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris blamed Gore for his loss in the 2000 election: "A more poised, focused and self-confident campaign surely would have won the election and not just the popular vote in 2000. As the chosen leader of his party, Gore had a responsibility to wage that campaign." But Harris did not mention the treatment Gore received in 2000 from the "Freak Show" media -- a term Harris and former ABC News political director Mark Halperin coined in The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, October 2006) and identified as a factor in the 2000 election. As Harris and Halperin noted in the book, in 2000, the media "exerted intense destructive pressure on Gore," seizing on Gore's "petty frailties" and making them his "defining" characteristics while downplaying Gore's "substantial strengths as a man and politician."

Gore as fat -- "a little puffy"

Numerous media figures have taken to recently ridiculing Gore for his physical appearance. For example:

  • On March 22, the Los Angeles Times described Gore as looking "slightly grayed and a little puffy."
  • In his March 22 Chicago Sun-Times column, Michael Sneed wrote of "ballooning" weight.
  • On the March 21 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson referred to Gore as "the big guy" and "Big Al" and cited a March 21 New York Times article, which, Gibson said, described "the new fullness of [Gore's] face, rather than saying he gained a lot of weight." An onscreen graphic read: "Big Al Weighs In." Gibson then claimed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign was "watching [Gore's] weight" because "[t]hey figure if he loses weight, he's running" for president. Politico chief political writer Mike Allen agreed, adding: "[I]f he stays shaven, another indication."
  • During the March 21 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck called Gore "Fatso" and claimed: "I also know that Al Gore is on a diet. I'm not making that up. He is on a diet, trying to lose weight."

From the March 21 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (host): Terry Holt, why do conservatives dislike Al Gore so much?

HOLT: Well, what makes the criticism so effective about Al Gore is that Al Gore himself is -- generates the problem. It's not that he's just a hypocrite, and he is, but he's a braggart. I mean, he's claimed to have invented the Internet, among many other things. He claimed to have discovered the environmental problems that exist today, when, in fact, he himself uses more energy in one month at his house in Tennessee than most people use in an entire year at their house. The pristine grounds of Al Gore's house in Tennessee are backed up on the other side of the mountain by a zinc mine that his family has leased for some 30 years to a mining company.

From the March 21 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Hi, everybody, the big guy is back. Al Gore took center stage on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress as part of his ongoing global warming crusade.

[...]

GIBSON: Mike Allen, now, you're a political correspondent. My question about Big Al -- he weighs in -- and The New York Times described this as a "new fullness of his face," rather than saying he gained a lot of weight.

I know Hillary's people are watching his weight. They figure if he loses weight, he's running. So, what's the judgment today?

ALLEN: Right, and if he stays shaven, another indication.

From the March 21 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: The United Nations has already developed a global carbon tax. Canada has initiated theirs. Politicians are in love with the environmental movement, not because they care about the Earth -- some of them might; some of them may not -- they just see it as a way to raise taxes, all in the name of saving the planet.

I also know that Al Gore is on a diet. I'm not making that up. He is on a diet, trying to lose weight. How come, Fatso? You think -- really -- I mean, really, you think people care about what you look like during your slide shows? Everybody is asleep during the slide shows, Al. This guy, I believe, is preparing a candidacy.

Here's what I don't know. I'm not sure when Al Gore will announce -- this summer, winter -- but it's coming. Was today's testimony actually a de facto campaign stop?

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