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Reed Irvine’s Veracity Problem

Accuracy In Media's claims that Al Gore has told 17 lies isn't, well, accurate.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/14/2000

On the Accuracy in Media web site is posted an article titled "17 Lies of Al Gore." Problem is, at least three of these "lies" aren't what AIM would have you believe they are.

These are the three statements we will look at:

"He uncovered the pollution at Love Canal."

"He and Tipper were models for `Love Story.'"

"He took the initiative in creating the Internet."

Reed Irvine, head of Accuracy In Media, tries his best to assert that the Love Canal issue is really a lie but uses selective information to prove his point.

For the record, here is the complete quote from Al Gore in response to a question from a student about youth cynicism, which he began by talking about contamination in Toone, Tenn., that was brought to his attention by a high school student:

“I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing. 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.”

It's clear to me that Gore did not say he "uncovered the pollution at Love Canal" as Irvine asserts. (The New York Times and the Washington Post asserted this as well; they have since printed corrections. The Washington Times, however, not only came to that conclusion but also misquoted Gore as saying "I was the one that started it all" instead of "that was the one." I don't know if the Washington Times printed a correction.) The one that "started it all" is Toone, Tenn. And what did it start? The Superfund for cleaning up contaminated sites. Bob Zelnick -- who wrote a biography of Gore published by conservative publisher Regnery -- calls Gore "the prime mover behind the Superfund."

Reed Irvine, however, doesn't see it that way. In his April 6 column, Irvine writes that after being called on including Love Canal on the list by Bob Somerby, publisher of the Daily Howler (from which most of the supporting information for this article is taken), Irvine initially works up some concern: "This was important to me, because I had included it on a list of 17 Gore lies that I had published."

Ultimately, after repeating an incomplete Gore quote that leaves out the important "Toone, Tennessee-that was the one that you didn't hear of", Irvine decides not to retract the "lie": "He was clearly claiming credit for having started it all. Somerby seems to think that Gore was giving credit to the student, not himself. ... I can't buy that." Of course not. It’s his job to make Gore look bad

Irvine uses as supporting evidence the words of another Gore biographer, Bill Turque, who agrees with Irvine's view, though Irvine quotes Turque as saying "Gore did hold the first congressional hearings on (Love Canal)." Irvine then faults Somerby for not criticizing Turque for concluding Gore claimed credit for Love Canal, then accuses Somerby of “microscopic parsing.” (Somerby was a roommate of Gore at Harvard, which means Somerby has no credibility as far as Irvine is concerned.)

It would appear that Reed Irvine believes:

  • “I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal” is the same statement as "I uncovered the pollution at Love Canal."
  • Holding the first congressional hearings on Love Canal that ultimately led to the creation of the Superfund cannot be construed as “starting it all.”
  • Gore’s statement the following day correcting the “misimpression” does not exonerate Gore from telling a “lie.”


FORTUNATELY, Gore’s next “lie” is much more clear-cut.

Gore never said he and Tipper were the models for “Love Story.” According to a story in the New York Times, Gore said he had heard that author Erich Segal had said that and that was “all I know.”

What Segal did say was that the lead male character in “Love Story” was modeled after Gore and his roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones. (Note in the Daily Howler article that the Washington Times insist that Segal "emphatically" denied this. Again, I don't know if they ran a correction.)

No amount of “microscopic parsing” should make this one stay on Irvine’s list.

THE THIRD "LIE," "He took the initiative in creating the Internet," is only slightly more murky than the “Love Story” remark. While we all know that what is now the Internet began life as a defense project in the late 1960s, the Washington Post reports that “many of the researchers and venerated propeller-heads who did have a hand in the Internet's creation said Gore deserves substantial credit for passing a number of bills that boosted supercomputing and high-speed communications networks, which in turn helped create the Internet as it exists today.”

According to one “propeller-head” quoted in the story -- Vinton G. Cerf, a senior vice president at MCI Worldcom and the person most often called "the father of the Internet" for his part in designing the network's common computer language -- "I think it is very fair to say that the Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the vice president in his current role and in his earlier role as senator."

“Took the initiative in creating the Internet” is at worst puffery -- not all that far from AIM’s claim that it is “For Fairness, Balance and Accuracy in News Reporting,” as this article demonstrates -- not the gloryhounding lie-turned-myth that is in Irvine’s interest not to correct.

That’s three “lies” that are easily proven to be not quite lies. One can’t help but wonder: Who exactly is the liar here?

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