On recent broadcasts, conservative talk radio hosts “Gunny” Bob Newman of Newsradio 850 KOA and Amy Oliver of 1310 KFKA repeated the long-debunked canard that former Vice President Al Gore (D) claimed to have “invented” the Internet. In fact, while Gore is credited with having secured vital government support for the development of the Internet, he never said he “invented” it.
On his November 23 show, Newsradio 850 KOA host “Gunny” Bob Newman repeated the conservative falsehood that former Democratic Vice President Al Gore “claim[ed] to have invented the Internet.” Similarly, discussing an upcoming climate change conference, Amy Oliver of 1310 KFKA remarked on her November 26 broadcast, "[W]hy can't they just do it via teleconference? Why can't they just, everybody get on the Internet ... I mean, Al Gore invented that too." As Colorado Media Matters has noted numerous times (here, here, here, here, here, and here), Gore is widely credited with having secured vital government support for the development of the Internet, but never claimed to have “invented” it.
Newman was discussing with a caller a proposal supported by the European Union in 2005 to transfer control over the Internet from the United States to the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance when he made his comment about Gore.
From the November 23 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show:
CALLER: One of the other topics you asked about was this whole issue of turning over the Internet to the U.N.
NEWMAN: Yeah, 'cause that's what the European Union is asking us to do.
NEWMAN: And the U.N. would like to have it. But, you see, we control it right now. We. And I say “we,” of course I mean Al Gore, because he claims to have invented the Internet. But, anyway, an American corporation that works with the U.S. Department of Commerce actually controls the Internet.
CALLER: Yeah, the InterNIC.
NEWMAN: I'm looking at it right here. It's called the -- dun-dun-dun -- yeah, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is what it's called.
Oliver alluded to Gore's purported claim to have invented the Internet while discussing an upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, scheduled for December 3 through December 14.
From the November 26 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:
OLIVER: You know, there is the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, December 3rd through December 15th. And we'll get more into some of the global warming updates, this massive problem that we have with climate change. Well, there's an enormous problem December 3rd through December 15th of this year with the U.N. Conference on Climate Change -- which is, by the way, in Bali. It's gonna be in Bali. Now, you might think it is because there's gonna be some sort of lack of sunscreen or maybe a lack of paper umbrellas to accessorize fruity drinks for everybody who's going to be attending the U.N. Conference on Climate Change. All of the eco-warriors on their climate change crusade going to listen to the “Goracle” and the other high priests that will be there. Yeah, you know what? This climate change crusade is -- it is another religion. And I'll tell you what: If you are anybody who criticizes it or throws facts in their face, what you get is, “You're a climate change denier.” Forget science or anything else, but a “climate change denier.”
So no, here's the big problem in Bali. And I -- you can't make this stuff up. There isn't -- well, there aren't enough parking spaces for all of the private jets that will be coming into Bali for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change. There just isn't enough room. So what are they gonna have to do? They're gonna have to ship those jets to somewhere else, like Jakarta, or other airports in the area. So, in other words -- because they can only accommodate up to 15 planes. Which means some of the jets used by our eco-warriors on their climate change crusade are going -- the only thing they're gonna be able to do is disembark. They'll have to get off the plane, and then they'll take that empty jet and park it somewhere else. But of course, in the name of climate change, it's OK to dump more carbon into the atmosphere if you are an eco-warrior.
My question is, why do they have to have it in Bali? And why can't they just do it via teleconference? Why can't they just, everybody get on the Internet -- with technology, I mean, Al Gore invented that too -- why can't they just get on the Internet and have everybody participate via the Internet? Gosh, think of how you'd be reducing your carbon footprint. No, so all the private jets coming into Bali, there just isn't enough room, so they're gonna have to let all the VIPs off and then they'll send 'em to another airport somewhere else where they can be parked for the December 3rd through the 15th conference in Bali. Of course, I'm sure that Al Gore would be more than happy to sell carbon indulgences so that they all feel better about themselves.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the myth that Gore made such a claim appears to be based on a distortion of a March 9, 1999, interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer in which Gore noted that as a member of Congress, he “took the initiative in creating the Internet”:
BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.
Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?
GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.
But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
The distortion of Gore's remark that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” apparently originated in a March 11, 1999, Wired News article by Declan McCullagh, which stated, “It's a time-honored tradition for presidential hopefuls to claim credit for other people's successes. But Al Gore as the father of the Internet? That's what the campaigner in chief told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview Tuesday evening.”
In a March 23, 1999, follow-up article, McCullagh first used the word “invented” in relation to Gore's remarks: “Al Gore's timing was as unfortunate as his boast. Just as Republicans were beginning to eye the 2000 presidential race in earnest, the vice president offered up a whopper of a tall tale in which he claimed to have invented the Internet.”
However, McCullagh later clarified in an October 17, 2000, Wired News article that “Gore never did claim to have 'invented' the Internet.” McCullagh further explained that following his article, congressional Republicans and journalists perpetuated the myth:
Which brings us to an important question: Are the countless jibes at Al's expense truly justified? Did he really play a key part in the development of the Net?
The short answer is that while even his supporters admit the vice president has an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate, the truth is that Gore never did claim to have “invented” the Internet.
During a March 1999 CNN interview, while trying to differentiate himself from rival Bill Bradley, Gore boasted: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
That statement was enough to convince me, with the encouragement of my then-editor James Glave, to write a brief article that questioned the vice president's claim. Republicans on Capitol Hill noticed the Wired News writeup and started faxing around tongue-in-cheek press releases -- inveterate neatnik Trent Lott claimed to have invented the paper clip -- and other journalists picked up the story too.
The terrible irony in this exchange is that while Gore certainly didn't create the Internet, he was one of the first politicians to realize that those bearded, bespectacled researchers were busy crafting something that could, just maybe, become pretty important.
In January 1994, Gore gave a landmark speech at UCLA about the “information superhighway.”
Many portions -- discussions of universal service, wiring classrooms to the Net, and antitrust actions -- are surprisingly relevant even today.
Furthermore, Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler weblog similarly wrote that, in a September 1, 2000, speech to the American Political Science Association, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet”:
GINGRICH: In all fairness, it's something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is -- and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a “futures group” -- the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the '80s began to actually happen.
The Los Angeles Times also reported Gingrich's remarks in a September 22, 2000, article (accessed through the Nexis database), noting that Gingrich “said earlier this month, 'Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.' ”