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Al Gore's Media Lovefest

By Dan Gainor & Amy Menefee

John Lennon once wrote that "All you need is love." If that's the case, former presidential candidate Al Gore is a happy man. He is in the middle of a media lovefest celebrating his work, his career - even his efforts as actor, author, dancer and comedian.

The former vice president has both a movie and a book about global warming debuting under the title "An Inconvenient Truth." He has gone from media darling to "the summer's most unlikely movie star," as NBC's Katie Couric called him in a May 24 interview. Gore, who Couric also called "funny, vulnerable, disarming, self effacing," isn't just a movie star, he's a media star. He has appeared or been mentioned on 23 news and news-related shows in just the last month (April 23-May 23) on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.

Only 10 of those appearances were linked to Gore's strident lecture on global warming. The other 13 fed on the new-found cult of celebrity that included everything from a discussion of another Gore presidential run (which he has repeatedly denied) to video clips of him used in relation to "American Idol" voting.

Couric's "Today" interview claimed that somehow viewers might not be aware of Gore's movie and book deal, despite the incredible attention he has received just in the last month. "The last memory many Americans may have of Al Gore is the night of Dec. 13, 2000, when he withdrew his challenge to the election that put George W. Bush in the White House," said Couric.

Those must be the Americans who don't watch the news, read newspapers or even tune in to "Saturday Night Live," which Gore recently hosted. That combination has thrust Gore into the spotlight and given him media-sponsored credibility in his push for massive U.S. regulation related to climate change. It's all part of what CNN's Brian Todd called "a veritable media blitz that includes the new documentary from Mr. Clinton's former vice president," in a May 23 broadcast.

Some Inconvenient Truths

Gore is an ironic pitchman for science accuracy. Though he got an undergraduate degree in government and dropped out of two graduate programs (in law and divinity), Gore has become a "teacher" on the subject of climate change. The Washington Post reported in a March 19, 2000, article titled "Gore's Grades Belie Image of Studiousness" that Gore earned a D and a C-plus in "natural sciences" at Harvard.

That didn't stop Gore from complaining about respected scientists during his "Today" appearance. "There's really not a debate. The debate is over. The scientific community has reached as strong a consensus as you will ever find in science. There are a few oil companies and coal companies that spend millions of dollars a year to put these pseudo-scientists out there pretending there is a debate," complained Gore.

The Business & Media Institute recently released a study of media coverage of the climate change debate going back to 1895 called "Fire and Ice." That study showed Gore was just following a recent media tactic to claim the debate is over when the media have reported four separate changes in climate during the last 110 years.

Gore the pitchman has also come under criticism for his Earth-saving hypocrisy. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-free enterprise think tank, has released a commercial that mocks Gore's use of carbon-based fuels while calling for others to cut back.

The 70-second video targets Gore's celebrity-roadtrip mentality and compares his massive "carbon footprint" with that of an ordinary American. According to a press release, "All the evidence suggests that Mr. Gore is an elitist who passionately believes that the people of the world must drastically reduce their energy use but that it doesn't apply to him," wrote Myron Ebell, CEI's director of energy and global warming policy and the creator of the video.

That's Entertainment

Al Gore has been many things in his career - congressman, senator, vice president - but recent media coverage has elevated him to pop culture icon. In just a few short weeks, Gore has been seen dancing with Katie Couric, hosting "Saturday Night Live" and even was mentioned in connection with voting for "American Idol."

Every instance has served to keep Gore front and center just in time for his movie/book rollout. On May 16, Gore led the celebrity farewells to "Today's" Katie Couric with both a "congratulations" and then a reminiscence of dancing with Couric "in the west wing of the White House."

Gore joined singer Harry Connick Jr. and Miss Piggy and Kermit from "Sesame Street" to wish Couric their best. He gave back some love to the media who love him, to the future host of "CBS Evening News": "Katie, congratulations on a fantastic job that you've done on the 'Today' show, and good luck in your new gig. It's going to be fantastic, and I'm proud of you. And I wanted to say, other than my wife, Tipper, I've never danced with anyone else in the West Wing of the White House, except you. I've always enjoyed talking with you, and I really appreciate what you do and the way you do it."

When "Good Morning America" decided on May 18 to look at the "political" aspect of the "American Idol," election, there was Gore once again. The story brought up Bush v. Gore as similar election and showed a clip of Gore saying, "I believe this is a time to count every vote."

The May 13 "Saturday Night Live" skit enabled Gore fans in the media to envision him not as a failed politician, but as an enormously successful president of an alternate world's United States. In that world, Gore had been elected "overwhelmingly" and in just six years had defeated global warming and amassed a "perilously low" $11 trillion government surplus.

Gore More Years

Viewers of the May 24 "Today" interview might have noticed little difference in tone from the "SNL" skit. "I think in this movie at different turns you're funny, vulnerable, disarming, self-effacing, and someone said after watching it, quote, 'If only he was like this before maybe things would have turned out differently in 2000,'" said Couric.

But there's still 2008 and beyond. After a clip from Gore's "presidential" appearance on "SNL," Couric continued to push Gore on "the inevitable question" he had answered numerous times: "that you're going to run for president."

It was a question addressed earlier by other networks. The May 17 "Situation Room" showed CNN's Jack Cafferty telling viewers "Al Gore says he's not running for president again."

But that wasn't exactly the story CNN told on that show. Following an introduction entitled "Here We Gore Again?" reporter Brian Todd referred to Gore's plan not to run as having "the line down." That, said Todd, is "a line he's used with reporters more than once recently."

Despite that denial, Todd asked if Gore's recent actions had indicated an opposite opinion. In a story, again including clips from the presidential sketch, Todd talked to a political expert who predicted Gore would stay in the game.

Still, the media buzz continued. On the May 23 "Good Morning America," Claire Shipman touted a potential Gore presidential run. She told the audience: "Al Gore and global warming. On the face of it, not two subjects you'd expect to add up to the buzziest film since the last Michael Moore flick. But check it out, here's Al being celebrated in Cannes, doing the celebrity thing at an LA opening, power-walking a green carpet in Washington as rumors of another presidential run swirl."

With the advent of network news blogs, correspondents' own views are put on parade more often. ABC's Bill Blakemore, who has pushed global warming in his own reporting, lavished praise on Gore, his writing and his movie on the "World Newser" blog on May 17. He included Gore among great writers as he waxed on (with great writers' names misspelled):

The greatest writers - Shakespeare, Emily Dickenson [sic], Edgar Allen Poe [sic], Robert Frost, Dante - are found in the biographies to have focused the most of their time and mental energies as adults on their craft - writing. Their great clarity and insight does not come by accident. The Italian scholar Italo Calvino added that all great literature has one additional quality: lightness. Such art has a self- levitating quality; it provides its own field of gravity -- one of the reasons we value it. Former vice president Al Gore is the central actor in the non-fiction 96- minute long movie opening later this month entitled 'An Inconvenient Truth.'

That was only the beginning of Blakemore's treatise, as he went on to declare global warming not a "politics story," but an "event story." "As such, it needs not so much 'balance,' which must be accorded politics stories, but perspective - as mainstream editors and reporters have finally begun to realize over the past year," he wrote. He concluded that the film "is remarkably concise, clear and informative, and this as a result of Gore's long commitment to - and consideration of - this inconvenient truth."

"Not so much 'balance'" - a good description of the media's embrace of all things Gore.

Business & Media Institute


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