Left Hook! The Blog
Dedicated to Joel Foss
Who deserves an apology…
"As you have no doubt heard, Al
Gore lies like a rug. The old punch line about how you know when a politician
is lying is no joke when it comes to the vice president. If his lips are
moving, you know... His lies are effortless and imaginative. He created
the Internet. He and Tipper were the inspiration for ‘Love Story.’ He had
no idea the Buddhist Temple was even a fund-raiser...He ‘found’ Love Canal..."
--Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe (May 11, 2000)
"By now, pretty much everyone recognizes
that Vice President Gore has a problem with the truth."
--John J. Miller, National Review (May 22, 2000)
10/25/00 -- Bozell is hopeful at first: "Democrats are desperate and afraid. The reality that their nominee for President has a compulsive tendency to make things up to make himself look good is sinking in." At least, this is the image of Al Gore which Bush/Cheney campaign strategists would have you believe, and that means Brent Bozell and his Media Research Center want you to believe it, too.
The MRC is allegedly a "media watchdog." Allegedly, it's dedicated to ferreting out "bias" in the press, specifically liberal bias. But unlike its liberal counterpart, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), the MRC is unconcerned with accuracy--if someone says something bad about a Republican, it's "bias," in the MRC's estimation, whether it's true or not. Keeping this in mind as a caveat, their work could theoretically still be useful in an overall critique of the corporate press.
Unfortunately, as it turns out the MRC isn't particularly interested in spotting "bias," either. Their mission statement this year would perhaps most properly read "Our goal is the election of George Bush as President of the United States." Their investigation of "bias" in campaign coverage is limited to this end, and they’ve shown themselves fully willing to eat their own in its pursuit. Throughout the primaries, the MRC hounded Bush's Republican opponent John McCain. Week after week, McCain was an object of scorn, his "Straight Talk Express" tour portrayed by Bozell as the "Trash-Talk Express." In the end, they got their man, but to take The Prize, they would have to get through Al Gore, formidable if only for the fact that while the VP is quite intelligent, their contender for the title is a moron.
The MRC does its part for Bush by, in part, portraying the corporate press as "liberal" and thus pro-Gore. The goal of such a project is, as always, to undermine the public's confidence in anti-Republican stories, while, at the same time, insinuating that the harsh treatment meted out to Gore by the press was only a fraction of what he would have received had coverage been geniunely "fair." This is a process known as "flacking," and it's what the MRC does best--what it was literally born to do, in fact.
That obviously harsh treatment by the press is a significant problem in presenting Al Gore as the annointed champion of a "liberal media." While largely deferring to (when not outright cheerleading for) George Bush, the corporate press has been mercilessly brutal to Gore during the campaign. The characterization of Gore that has emerged over the course of the year is that he is a serial liar, and this has become the dominant media portrayal of Gore, the lens through which everything he says and does is reflected. This--a straightforward character assassination campaign--was born in the corporate press, created by the press and the Republican party, both separately and working in concert, from a Frankenstein's-monster patchwork of stories about things the Vice President has supposedly said and done. "Supposedly," because virtually none of the dozens of stories that make up this portrayal of Gore have any relation to reality. The point is an essential one: the Myth of Al Gore The Liar (henceforth MOAGTL) has nothing to do with lying. It really has nothing to do with Al Gore. It has only to do with electing George Bush to the presidency by any means necessary, which coincides perfectly with the present agenda of the MRC. The organization adopted it enthusiastically.
In doing so, the MRC was only following the lead of the corporate press, but obviously Bozell and co. could never concede this if they were going to portray the same corporate press as being in the tank for Gore. To maintain its own "liberal media" fiction, the MRC has tried, week after week, to divorce the myth from its origins. To wit--Bozell from 10/10/00:
"Nearly every Gore gaffe that's become part of the campaign talking points was originally ignored by the major media, which attempted to strangle the mistakes and embarrassments in the crib."
Actually, exactly the opposite is the case--it was, in fact, the "major media" that largely invented those "gaffes," either through outright fabrication or by repeating easily disproven Republican fabrications ad infinitum, in some cases for years at a time. Bozell’s own examples illustrate the point.
"Gore portrays himself as the technical genius who invented
--L. Brent Bozell, III (June 8, 2000)
Bozell says that Gore's claim of "creating the Internet…was not true." Did Gore ever make such a claim, though? In March, 1999, Gore was interviewed on CNN by Wolf Blitzer. In the course of the interview, Gore said, among other things, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." This is an obvious overstatement, but the context was clearly Gore’s legislative record, and that Gore deserves credit on this score for aiding the development of the technology that makes up the internet is totally defensible . The misrepresentation of this comment--that Gore had claimed to have "invented" the internet--started two days later, with a report on the CNN interview by Declan McCullagh in Wired:
"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."
The story was picked up almost immediately by RNC chairman Jim Nicholson, who began zipping faxes to news organizations. House Majority Leader Dick Armey quickly did the same, saying Gore had made an "outrageous claim." The totally credulous press took this at face value. The AP's Michelle Mittelstadt reported (3/12/99)
"Vice President Al Gore’s claim that he is the Father of the Internet drew amused protests yesterday from congressional leaders."
And so the story passed into legend.
"Clearly, Clintonism will bloom and grow all over again
if Hillary Clinton and Al Gore reign over Washington after these elections.
And the most relentless defenders of Clintonism--the entrenched, unelected,
89-percent pro-Clinton press corps--are trying to see to that. Election
Day is drawing near, and the press seems passionately dedicated to carrying
Al Gore’s bags into the White House residence. One bonafide story after
another casting the Democrats in a negative light is being buried."
--L. Brent Bozell, III (Sept. 14, 2000)
"This is not accidental. It is deliberate, and premeditated.
These networks are doing, or not doing, whatever it takes to see Al Gore
succeed Bill Clinton."
--L. Brent Bozell, III (Sept. 26, 2000)
McCullagh’s Wired piece also introduced another facet of the conservatives’ use of MOAGTL that would become all too common, namely feigned outrage at the fact that the "liberal" and "pro-Gore" press hadn't challenged Gore on something he had not, in fact, said:
"After Gore took credit for the Internet, Blitzer simply moved on to talk about polls showing Texas governor George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole ahead of the vice president."
McCallagh's piece appeared on March 11, 1999. Here's Brent Bozell, 19 months later. (10/10/00)
"'He [Gore] didn't really say he "invented the Internet,' they ["liberals"] complain, he 'took the initiative in creating it.' The real point here isn't the complete lack of distinction between 'inventing' and 'creating' the Internet. It's that Gore said this on March 9, 1999, to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and Blitzer didn't even blink. He didn't follow up. His eyebrows didn't even move. He just asked another question. The statement went completely unreported on television for ten days."
Who knows what chain of logic could have led Bozell to conclude that an event that in fact occurred on television went "unreported on television?" It's true that the subsequent misrepresentation of the event was initially "unreported on television"--after all, an alleged "journalist" had to invent it before there was anything to report--but one can hardly argue the press hasn't more than made up for it since.
"That same pattern of media apathy and omission has followed almost every other Gore boast and flub. So if this image [of Gore as a liar] has taken hold, it's not something the liberal media caused. Blame the high profile of a presidential debate, matched with the conservative message taking hold in public opinion, despite the liberal media's best efforts at organized amnesia."
The first sentence here is correct, though in a far more ironic way than Bozell intended it.
There is, indeed, a pattern here.
To demonstrate, one need look no further than another of Bozell's examples. Bozell says Gore’s "suggesting he and Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story…was not true" (10/10/00). This is probably the second-most repeated story in the MOAGTL canon. Here’s what actually happened. Gore, in an off-the-record conversation with Karen Tumulty (Time Magazine) and Richard Berke (the New York Times), said he and wife Tipper had inspired the characters in "Love Story." Enter Maureen Dowd, mixing her usual lowball brand of rhetorical sewage. In a pair of pieces in the New York Times in December 1997, she ridicules Gore for his claim:
"Does he think, going into 2000, that this will give him a romantic glow, or a romantic afterglow?" (12/13/97)
She said Gore had done this "to warm up his image" (12/17/97). Frank Rich, also in the NewYork Times, chimed in (12/16/97), saying Gore’s comment had been made in "an effort to overcompensate for his public stiffness." He labelled it a "fib," and said it showed "disingenuousness" and was reflective of the Vice President’s "real character problem."
Erich Segal, the writer of "Love Story," had, indeed, partially based the character of Oliver Barret on Gore. He confirmed this. But, he said, the character Jennifer Cavilleri wasn't based on Tipper. Gore's source for his inclusion of Tipper in his "Love Story" comments came from--what a surprise--an inaccurate story in the press, specifically the Nashville Tennessean. Further, these facts had been reported in the New York Times by Melinda Henneberger on Dec. 14, 1997--two days before the Rich piece, and three days before the second Dowd piece. Even Henneberger was dissembling in her handling of the story--she buried the fact that Segal had confirmed Gore was a basis for the Barret character over 20 paragraphs into her piece, beneath the headline "Author of ‘Love Story’ Disputes Gore Story" (referring to the fact that Segal had said Tipper wasn’t the inspiration for Jenny Cavilleri). A full week after the Henneberger piece, Gore advisor Bob Squier was grilled by Cokie Roberts on ABC’s THIS WEEK, the implications of her comments being that Gore had been lying. And so on.
The "issue" was more or less dead for over a year until the deadly RNC fax machines started rumbling again in March 1999, regurgitating the vacuous (and factually inaccurate) Dowd and Rich takes on the story. And the press fell right in line, reporting what the RNC was saying as though it was true, and, though this version of events had been disproven amost immediately after being "reported" in 1997, the press largely continues to hold to it to this day, willingly participating in a Republican character assassination. Bozell was still repeating the "Love Story" lie as of October 12.
"Instead of hounding Gore, the media have sold Gore's
--L. Brent Bozell, III (Oct. 10, 2000)
Another common "Love" story in MOAGTL is the infamous Love Canal debacle. Once again, this was entirely an invention of the "liberal" and "pro-Gore" press. It starts with a story by Katherine Seeyle in the New York Times (12/1/99):
"Later in the day, Mr. Gore, who suffered some embarrassment this year when he took credit for the development of the Internet, said he was the one who had first drawn attention to the toxic contamination of Love Canal. He was telling a school audience that each person can make a difference in the world and recalled a child writing to him when he was in Congress about a hazardous-waste site in Tennessee.
"He then added, ‘I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. I had the first meeting on that issue and Toone, Tenn.,’ he said. ‘But I was the one that started it all. And it all happened because one high school student got involved.’"
Not only was this a total mischaracterization of Gore’s comments, the part about "I was the one that started it all" is a fabrication by Seeyle. Here’s what Gore actually said:
"I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing [on the toxic waste dump in Toone]. I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. Had the first meeting on that issue and Toone, Tennessee--that was the one that you didn't hear of. But that was the one that started it all. We passed a major national law to clean up hazardous waste sites. And we had new efforts to stop the practices that ended up poisoning water around the country. We've still got work to do. But we made a huge difference. And it all happened because one high school student got involved."
Note that at no point did Gore say "he was the one who had first drawn attention to the toxic contamination of Love Canal"--quite the opposite, he said no one heard much about that first hearing, which he did, indeed, hold. Seeyle butchered his comments beyond recognition to get the desired result--another MOAGTL story--and even fabricated a quote to support her phony version. That the clip was played on television that night, exposing the deception (though without commenting on it), didn’t stop Ceci Connolly from repeating it in the Washington Post the next day (in a piece ironically titled "First ‘Love Story,’ Now Love Canal"):
"Add Love Canal to the list of verbal missteps by Vice President Gore.
"The man who mistakenly claimed to have inspired the movie ‘Love Story’ and to have invented the Internet says he didn't quite mean to say that he discovered a toxic waste site when he said at a high school forum Tuesday in New Hampshire: ‘I found a little place in New York called Love Canal.’
"Gore went on to brag about holding the ‘first hearing on that issue’ and said ‘I was the one that started it all.’"
Within five days, the phony Gore quote was in U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Times, and was being repeated on "The News, with Brian Williams." And so on.
"For the entrenched liberal media, the Big Story is whatever
the Gore campaign tells them it is."
--L. Brent Bozell, III (Sept. 14, 2000)
During the first presidential "debate" with George Bush, Al Gore shared this anecdote:
"I'd like to tell you a quick story. I got a letter today [from] Randy Ellis. He has a 15-year-old daughter named Kailey who's in Sarasota High School. Her science class was supposed to be for 24 students. She is the 36th student in that classroom, sent me a picture of her in the classroom. They can't squeeze another desk in for her, so she has to stand during class. I want the federal government, consistent with local control and new accountability, to make improvement of our schools the No. 1 priority so Kailey will have a desk and can sit down in a classroom where she can learn."
The next day, the press was ripping at Gore for telling this tale, portraying it as another example of Gore’s propensity to lie. Here is Bozell’s take on the situation from a few days after the event (10/10/00):
"If the media were objective, by now they'd be suggesting the Democrats did a bad job in selecting a nominee.... A good candidate wouldn't sloppily use anecdotes that can be easily picked apart, like the poor unseated girl at the supposedly impoverished, overcrowded school in Sarasota, Florida. When the school turned out to be modern and fancy, Gore blamed the girl and her father instead of placing any blame on his campaign's utter lack of homework."
If Bozell and the rest of those in the press who raked Gore over the
coals over this had done any homework at all, they would have known that
the "modern and fancy" school in question, Sarasota High School, had recently
suffered a series of crushing budgetary cutbacks, was suffering from severe
overcrowding, and that the story Gore told had been accurate in every meaningful
respect. The "modern and fancy" characterization came exclusively
from the school’s principal, Daniel Kennedy. That Kennedy was just
a bureacrat trying to cover his ass is strongly suggested by the fact that
this characterization disappeared instantly when he was given a slot in
the Wall Street Journal to trash Gore’s claim in print. A detailed
examination of this story, including the media coverage, can be found here:
As for Gore having "blamed the girl and her father," for a phony story or for anything else, this is a deliberate fabrication by Bozell. No such event ever happened.
"In the 2000 election cycle, Al Gore should be a great
challenge for the media’s fact checkers. With his penchant for truth-twisting,
the press might need a whole brigade working around the clock."
--L. Brent Bozell, III (June 20, 2000)
"The degree to which the liberal media is refusing to
cover Gore scandals is becoming
--L. Brent Bozell, III (June 8, 2000)
THE PROPENSITY TO EXAGGERATE
In his 10/12/00 column, Brent Bozell downgrades what he had previously described unequivocally as lies to the status of a "propensity to exaggerate" on Gore’s part. He lists several examples of this, and they’re worth a closer look.
As an example of Gore’s "propensity," Bozell includes Gore’s claim that he was "fired upon in Vietnam." This was an ugly story, first put forward by John J. Miller in the May 22 issue of National Review as an example of a Gore lie. Gore was a journalist in the war, and the implication is that he never saw combat action. Miller created this story by doctoring a comment Gore made in the Baltimore Sun in 1987. In Miller’s version, Gore had said he "walked through the elephant grass and was fired upon"; "I carried an M-16…I pulled my turn on the perimeter at night." Here’s what Gore actually said in the Baltimore Sun:
"‘I carried an M-16 and traveled all over the country to any spot where engineers were involved in a conflict,’ he [Gore] says. ‘I pulled my turn on the perimeter at night and walked through the elephant grass and I was fired upon, but I never saw the kind of combat that a lot of people did.’" (emphasis mine)
Miller's doctored version (and the bogus characterization of the comment) is still being dutifully reported by the press to this day (see, for example, "Fact and Fiction," by Ralph Hallow, Washington Times, 10/10/00).
As another example, Bozell trashes Gore's claim that, as a child, he was "sung to sleep with union commercial jingles." (10/12/00). This story came from Walter Shapiro of USA Today (9/20/00):
"The tune [Gore mentioned] was written for an ILGWU radio and TV ad campaign that first aired in 1975, when the 27-year-old Gore was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean."
As it turned out, Gore never made any real claim of being "sung to sleep" by this jingle; as the Vice President explained two days after the Shapiro piece, he was telling a joke to a group of Teamsters, "a joke that I had told to a number of union audiences over the years." We don’t have to guess on whether he was being honest, here. The event was taped, and the tape backs up Gore on the point, as USA Today--the original source of the story--subsequently pointed out. That didn’t stop the press. Two days after Gore’s explanation, Glen Johnson was still reporting to readers of the Boston Globe that "During the week, Gore also hummed a union jingle, saying he recalled it from his childhood. But the tune was not written until he was 27." ("Gore Seen as ‘Misleading,’" 9/24/00). Bozell first picked up the story on 9/26/00. Four days after it had been conclusively proven that this was a joke, here’s what he had to say:
"Labor Lullabies. In what obviously was a disastrous Monday on the campaign trail in Las Vegas, Gore made up yet another story, this time for the Teamsters union’s national convention. ‘You know I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child, [singing] "Look for the union label.’" USA Today reported the goof two days later, noting the song was written for union TV commercials in 1975, when Gore was 27."
Bozell even berated the press because "No reporters found relatives or childhood friends for corroboration." Over two weeks after that, Richard Berke was writing in the New York Times about how Gore had "recalled a childhood lullaby that did not exist" ("Tendency to Embellish Fact Sangs Gore," 10/6/00). And so on.
Bozell says Gore claimed that he was "present at the creation of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," neither of which is true. The part about the Strategic Petroleum Reseve was begun, once again, by Katherine Seeyle in the New York Times on September 22, the same day Gore shot down the "lullaby" non-story. The Vice President was questioned about his support for tapping into the Reserve to ease pressure on oil prices. The implication was that the reserve was designed only for national emergencies, something Gore denied:
"I've been a part of the discussions on the strategic reserve since the days when it was first established and actually, the purposes that justify release are many and varied and in fact it's not just as narrow as that."
Seelye noted that the Reserve's web site says it is "the nation's first line of defense against an interruption in petroleum supplies" and "a significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool of foreign policy," while failing to mention anything about lowering oil prices. The criticism about the Gore comment was that Congress created the reserve in 1975, while Gore wasn’t elected to Congress until 1976. But Gore never claimed, as Bozell says, to have been "present at the creation" of the Reserve--he said he had been "a part of the discussions on the strategic reserve since the days when it was first established," and, in fact, he had been. As for the Earned Income Tax credit, here’s what Gore actually said to Time Magazine in November, 1999 (referring to Bill Bradley):
"[He proposes] the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. I was the author of that proposal. I wrote that, so I say, welcome aboard. That is something for which I have been the principal proponent for a long time."
This was clearly a reference to the expansion of the EITC, and not the original act, which was passed before Gore had entered congress. And, in fact, Gore was the author of the expansion of EITC in 1989.
Bozell now concedes there is "a smidgen of truth" in each of the examples he’s using, though he’s never admitted as much in the past, and doesn't bother to explain what he's taking about in making that concession. And he's unwilling to let the issue go, either--while conceding this "smidgen of truth," he says, "there’s also a disgregard, a lack of interest, in accuracy. That clearly becomes a character issue. And when the quantity of exaggerations reaches epidemic proportions, as it has with Gore, it ought to be regarded by political observers in the press as serious stuff indeed."
The reader will have to decide with whom the "quantity of exaggerations" has reached "epidemic proportions." As for my vote, well… Bozell concludes his column this way: "Al Gore, simply put, is a liar." My reaction to this mess draws forth more colorful language, though, so I’ll conclude mine this way:
L. Brent Bozell is a goddamn liar.
And you can quote me on that.
 For some of those defenses, look here:
There are more here
along with refutations of other MOAGTL stories not covered here. For that matter, an invaluable resource on these stories is the Daily Howler, which picks up on misleading stories, inaccurate facts, and lies in the press and tracks them day after day. It’s at http://www.dailyhowler.com/
 Another of the more commonly reported MOAGTL pieces has to do with the "fundraiser" at a Buddhist Temple during the 1996 campaign. Gore has been mercilessly attacked in the press for this for four years. Bozell, on 9/14/00, took Gore to task for "holding a fundraiser at a Buddhist temple." In his 8/24/00 piece, Bozell called Gore a "Buddhist monk-tapper who lies endlessly on the campaign trail." On 10/12/00, he wrote "The Buddhist Temple story (I never knew it was a fundraiser) is another lie." In fact, as Sean Wilentz reports, in the American Prospect, "...a close reading of the reports and documents released by the Fred Thompson and Dan Burton committees, as well as Gore's testimony to Justice Department officials on April 18, 2000, shows that the case against Gore in the all-important Buddhist temple affair now rests on nothing more than a willfully negative reading of the evidence." Wilentz dissects the story in some detail here: http://www.tompaine.com/print.php3?id=1444 .
 This practice of reporting Segal’s remarks as contradicting Gore has been repeated in several press stories. For example, Bruce Morton, on CNN’s "Inside Politics" (3/19/99), said "Gore once claimed the two characters in the movie Love Story were based on his wife Tipper and himself. The author said, ‘News to me,’ and Gore backed off." The Washington Times Rowan Scarborough wrote (3/16/99) "[Gore] once told reporters he and wife Tipper were the models for the best-selling novel "Love Story"...an assertion author Erich Segal said was untrue." For an example of just how far some pundits will go to mislead in this respect, look here http://www.dailyhowler.com/h092800_1.shtml
 Connolly has falsified other Gore quotes in order to put Gore in
a negative light. For another such incident (only weeks later), see http://www.dailyhowler.com/h121899_1.shtml
DISCLAIMER: Al Gore is a politician and, like all politicians,
is, in fact, a liar. For example, when Gore says he won’t appoint
lousy Supreme Court Justices like Antonin Scalia, someone needs to point
out that Gore voted for Scalia when he was up for confirmation in the Senate.
MOAGTL doesn’t deal with genuine lies; it’s a character assassination campaign,
centered around electing George Bush while avoiding discussion of any real
policy issues (where, of course, Bush doesn’t significantly differ from
EXPLANATORY: This article is dedicated to Joel Foss, whose belief in
the media's version of the "Love Story" debacle cost him the $64,000 question
on "I Want To Be A Millionaire."
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