Media perpetuate myth that Gore claimed to have “invented” Internet

In recent days, major newspapers and media personalities have revived the myth that, during his presidential run, former Vice President Al Gore claimed he “invented” the Internet. Although these media outlets persist in repeating or alluding to it, this falsehood has long since been debunked. Gore did not say he “invented” the Internet. In 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.”

In the past year alone, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press have all published columns, editorials, or articles that repeat or perpetuate the myth that Gore said he invented the Internet, ignoring their own reporting to the contrary:

  • On January 12, Washington Post columnist Al Kamen wrote: “We all know that Al Gore invented the Internet.” Just one day earlier, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote: “The term [prebuttal -- which Milbank defined as ”the act of rebutting an opponent's speech before the speech is delivered"], like the Internet, was apparently invented by Vice President Al Gore." By contrast, Richard Morin and Claudia Deane reported in an article in the August 1, 2004, issue of The Washington Post Magazine: “For the record, Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, rather that he 'took the initiative in creating the Internet' while in Congress.”

    More recently, in an “Innovators Quiz” on June 29, 2006, the Post asked: “Who is most closely associated” with the Internet -- Vinton G. Cerf, Robert Kahn, or Al Gore? In the Answers section, the Post wrote: “Former vice president Al Gore gets a lot of flak for supposedly claiming to have 'invented' the Internet; actually, he said he took [the] initiative in creating the Internet, and in fact he did introduce legislation in Congress that helped spur its creation.”

  • In a January 7 op-ed (subscription required) for The New York Times, conservative commentator Ben Stein described Gore as “none other than the founder of the Internet himself.” About a year before, on February 6, 2006, the Times' Stuart Elliot had thanked (subscription required) Gore “for inventing the Internet.” However, on March 21, 1999, soon after Gore made his original comment, the Times accurately reported: "[Gore] said in an interview with CNN that while a member of Congress, 'I took the initiative in creating the Internet.' "
  • In a December 26 article, AP entertainment writer Jake Coyle wrote: “Here are a few of the loose ends and oddities left over from a year of clicking around on Al Gore's Internet.” But on August 31, 2000, the AP had reported that "[t]he vice president has often joked that his biggest mistake in this campaign was his March 1999 comment on CNN: 'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.' Gore has since said he meant only that he took the lead in laying down the policy that helped develop the vast computer network."
  • In an April 27, 2006, editorial, the Los Angeles Times wrote: “The goal [of the Information Policy Action Committee] is to give lawmakers, all of whom were born long before erstwhile colleague Al Gore even dreamed of inventing the Internet, a taste of unbridled technological innovation.” But on September 20, 2000, the Los Angeles Times had reported that “Gore did not say he was the Internet's inventor but in 1999 he did say, 'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.' ”

A number of television personalities have also made similar comments in the past year.

On the June 15, 2006, edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, host Tucker Carlson said he “did know” Gore invented the Internet:

MAX KELLERMAN (HBO Boxing commentator): Don't you know Al Gore invented the Internet, Tucker?

CARLSON: I did know that.

KELLERMAN: Haven't you been paying attention?

CARLSON: A wonder he didn't get elected president. Max Kellerman. Thank you, Max.

KELLERMAN: Thank you.

On the May 26, 2006, edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company, co-host and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore referred to Gore as “the guy who invented the internet”:

MOORE: Myron, I'm surprised that you're saying that Al Gore is stretching the truth. After all, this is the guy who invented the Internet. But let me ask a question.

ROBERT REICH (co-host): That is a -- that is very low blow, Stephen Moore.

MOORE: That's what we're here for.

REICH: You're a friend of mine. We want to elevate debate -- elevate debate.

On the May 15, 2006, edition of ABC News Now, ABC News correspondent Dan Harris said Gore “invented the Internet”:

HARRIS: Our research department says there actually is no Six Flags Tehran. By the way, there is a Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey --

We move to yet another Al Gore invention: the seatbelt. Just kidding -- he only invented the Internet. But a lot of people are shunning safety these days and going unbuckled.