I bet you can't say the following without laughing hysterically: the media were much kinder to George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign cycle than Vice President Al Gore.
As absurd as this statement might seem, such was the premise of an article in October's Vanity Fair written by contributing editor Evgenia Peretz and marvelously entitled "Going After Gore."
In it, Peretz - apparently with a straight face - claimed: "The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other top news outlets kept going after [Gore], with misquotes (‘I invented the Internet'), distortions (that he lied about being the inspiration for Love Story), and strangely off-the-mark needling, while pundits such as Maureen Dowd appeared to be charmed by his rival, George W. Bush."
Makes one wonder what the color of the sky is in Peretz's world. Regardless, for your entertainment pleasure, here are some of the absolutely hysterical lowlights (emphasis added throughout):
As he was running for president, Al Gore said he'd invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal's best-selling novel Love Story (made into a hit movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal). He also invented the dog, joked David Letterman, and gave mankind fire.
Could such an obviously intelligent man have been so megalomaniacal and self-deluded to have actually said such things? Well, that's what the news media told us, anyway. And on top of his supposed pomposity and elitism, he was a calculating dork: unable to get dressed in the morning without the advice of a prominent feminist (Naomi Wolf).
Get the feeling this was going to be a balanced report from Peretz, or an attempt to assist Gore in a makeover he's been working on since the day he conceded to Bush in December 2000?
In case you're undecided, here's more:
Eight years ago, in the bastions of the "liberal media" that were supposed to love Gore-The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN-he was variously described as "repellent," "delusional," a vote-rigger, a man who "lies like a rug," "Pinocchio." Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, "He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.... Everybody kind of let loose on the guy."
How did this happen? Was the right-wing attack machine so effective that it overwhelmed all competing messages? Was Gore's communications team outrageously inept? Were the liberal elite bending over backward to prove they weren't so liberal?
Eight years later, journalists, at the prompting of Vanity Fair, are engaging in some self-examination over how they treated Gore. As for Gore himself, for the first time, in this article, he talks about the 2000 campaign and the effect the press had on him and the election.
This coming from a woman who admittedly can't possibly be impartial, and, as a result, should never have been given this story:
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my father, Martin Peretz, was his teacher at Harvard and is an ardent, vocal Gore backer. I contributed to his campaign in February 1999. Before reporting this article, however, I'd had maybe two passing exchanges with Gore in my life.)
I guess Vanity Fair couldn't find anybody on its staff with less connection to the former vice president.
Liberal media? What liberal media? But I digress:
Gore wasn't eager to talk about this. He doesn't blame the media for his loss in 2000. Yet he does believe that his words were distorted and that certain major reporters and outlets were often unfair.
His words were distorted? Well, wasn't it his job as a presidential candidate to put forth a clear message that the public could not only understand, but get behind?
Such a concept seems quite foreign to Peretz as she fawningly quoted the former vice president without the slightest journalistic cynicism she certainly would apply if these were Bush's words:
Indeed, Gore accepts responsibility for not being able to communicate more clearly with the public. He admits, however, that the tendency of the press to twist his words encumbered his ability to speak freely. "I tried not to let it [affect my behavior]," Gore says. "But if you know that day after day the filter is going to be so distorted, inevitably that has an impact on the kinds of messages that you try and force through the filter. Anything that involves subtlety or involves trusting the reporters in their good sense and sense of fairness in interpretation, you're just not going to take a risk with something that could be easily distorted and used against you.… You're reduced to saying, 'Today, here's the message: reduce pollution,' and not necessarily by XYZ out of fear that it will be, well, 'Today he talked about belching cows!'"
Hey, contributing editor: just imagine how the person inaugurated in January 2001 feels about "the tendency of the press to twist his words" and to "know that day after day the filter is going to be so distorted."
Of course, as an obvious Gore sycophant, Peretz can't be so introspective or impartial.
Alas, in the end, if you need to know any more about how this article, dripping with adoration for a man Peretz claimed to have "maybe two passing exchanges with," turned out, all I have to say is caveat emptor.