MSNBC's Unger Ludicrously Claims Al Gore a Victim of 'Swift-Boating'

Citing one comment from a meteorologist quoted on the ninth page (78th paragraph) of a Washington Post Magazine story, remarks by an unnamed “pundit” and an unidentified “Fox News analyst,” as well as a gentle TV ad campaign with the hardly threatening tag line of “Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life," fill-in MSNBC host Brian Unger ludicrously devoted a segment of Tuesday's Countdown to the “Swift-Boating of Al Gore.” Unger gushed about how "Gore wants to do something admirable like save the planet” and then fretted: “And what do critics call him? Hitler. The 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore already in full swing."

Unger maintained that Gore's “wake-up call on climate change” has led “to some unfortunate analogies” and he then cited how meteorologist Bill Gray charged: “Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.” Unger added: “Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Josef Goebbels' films about Nazi Germany, the Fox News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true Swift Boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank." That “campaign-style attack ad” doesn't even mention Gore's name and it attacks no one, a reality that became obvious when Unger played it. Ironically, Unger complained that when Gore “launches his campaign to save the world from global warming, his critics decide to ignore the science and attack Al Gore." But the ad deals only with science and Unger ignored science since the lengthy Washington Post Magazine story from which he quoted Gray was all about global warming skeptics, yet he didn't utter a syllable about their facts. (Transcript follows)

Leading into Gray's Hitler quote, Unger falsely charged: “Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal.” If he'd bothered to read the article, he would have seen much of it was devoted to Gray's undermining of Gore's claims about the weather and the climate.

Later, Unger charged that conservatives are “scared" of Gore and he rued to a New York Daily News reporter that “the 'Swift-Boating' of John Kerry helped secure four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that would suggest that it won't work this time?"

Unger's “Swift-Boating” characterization presumes, of course, that there was some unfairness with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's ads against John Kerry. It appears the term may soon replace “the Willie Horton of...” as the media's favorite pejorative to discredit any criticism by conservatives of a liberal.

Unger and/or his MSNBC producers got the quote by Bill Gray, a professor emeritus at Colorado State University, from a Sunday Washington Post Magazine cover story, “What Global Warming?” The subhead: “Inside the Minds of Climate Change Skeptics.” Before getting to Gray, however, reporter Joel Achenbach noted Gore's use of Hitler, a tactic ignored by Unger:
“Somehow Hitler keeps popping into the discussion. Gore draws a parallel between fighting global warming and fighting the Nazis. Novelist Michael Crichton, in State of Fear, ends with an appendix comparing the theory of global warming to the theory of eugenics -- the belief, prominently promoted by Nazis, that the gene pool of the human species was degenerating due to higher reproductive rates of 'inferior' people. Both, he contends, are examples of junk science, supported by intellectual elites who will later conveniently forget they signed on to such craziness.

“And Gray has no governor on his rhetoric. At one point during our meeting in Colorado he blurts out, 'Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.'"
In fact, during the 2004 campaign, Gore “Swift-Boated” the Bush administration: “The administration works closely with a network of 'rapid response' digital brownshirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops.'"

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the May 30 Countdown on MSNBC. Fill-in host Brian Unger, in opening teaser:
"The war of the world: What do Nazis have to do with Al Gore or global warming? What's up with attack ads against a guy that's not running for anything?"

Clip of ad: "Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life."

Unger: "Inside the 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore."

Unger at 8:12pm EDT, before a commercial break:
"And Al Gore wants to do something admirable like save the planet. And what do critics call him? Hitler. The 'Swift Boating' of Al Gore already in full swing. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC."
Unger at 8:28pm before another ad break:
"Ah, but can this man match wits with Al Gore? The former VP relaunches his campaign to save the world from global warming. His critics decide to ignore the science and attack Al Gore."
Just past 8:30pm EDT, Unger arrived at his third story of the Countdown, "Swift-Boating: The Sequel":
"Third Reich analogies are the nuclear bombs of oratory, rhetorical or literary devices. They obliterate any logic or reason within miles, and the hurler of the Hitler bomb almost always looks worse than the intended recipient of the blast. Seinfeld's 'Soup Nazi' episode gets the only waiver. The latest target of the Hitler comparison, Al Gore and his global warming film. And anyone who has a beef with it should probably base their criticism on the science, and not the mindset of old Adolf.

“In our third story on the Countdown, the 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore. The former Vice President's wake-up call on climate change leading to some unfortunate analogies and a debate that seems lacking in substance. The documentary itself, An Inconvenient Truth, making an impressive debut at the box office raking in an average of just over $70,000 per screen over the holiday weekend. The number one film, X-Men III, averaging less than half of that. As a result, the counterattacks beginning in earnest. Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal. Quote [text on screen], 'Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.' Which doesn't even make sense. Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Josef Goebbels' films about Nazi Germany [The MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked down Unger's left-wing source for the "pundit" quote, this Think Progress blog item on a representative of the National Center for Policy Analysis], the Fox News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true Swift Boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank that is funded largely by the energy industry."
Viewers then saw a TV ad, in its entirety, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, with matching outdoor scenes on screen:

"There's something in these pictures you can't see. It's essential to life. We breathe it out, plants breathe it in. It comes from animal life, the oceans, the earth and the fuels we find in it. It's called carbon dioxide, CO2. The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love. Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then? Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life."

That's a “campaign-style attack ad”? (Unger played the "Energy" ad, one of two TV spots produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has posted them in Windows Media and Quick Time formats.)

Unger resumed:
"Time now to suspend this lesson on photosynthesis for a closer look at the politics involved here with the White House correspondent for the New York Daily News, Ken Bazinet. Thank you for joining us."
Unger's questions to Bazinet:
-- "For five years now, Al Gore has been, you know, little more than a political punch line at times. Why go to all this trouble of attacking him now? I mean, are conservatives legitimately scared of a Gore comeback here?"

-- "It feels, though, that this is a personal attack. The politics of global warming has, of course, you know, the science has long been in dispute. Is this more personal?"

-- "The 'Swift-Boating' of John Kerry helped secure four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that would suggest that it won't work this time?"

-- "Big box office does not mean a film like this will have any real lasting impact at the ballot box, Fahrenheit 9/11 being a recent example of that. Is it too soon to be hailing the success of An Inconvenient Truth?"

-- "Ken Bazinet, thank you very much for joining us. There is so much to fear in the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence, if it is correct, and global warming goes unchecked, fiercer hurricanes, floods and droughts among them, but until then, a more immediate sign that global warming may be taking its toll, and it's going to make you itch. Our correspondent is Kevin Corke."

Viewers then saw a silly story, which ran earlier on Today, from Kevin Corke who began:
"Painful, itchy, impossible to scratch. One touch of poison ivy's dreaded leaves can leave you with a bad case of the summertime blues and a new study just out suggests poison ivy is a growing problem, literally. Researchers theorize that carbon dioxide from cars, clear cutting even cattle is leading to a greenhouse effect with poison plants reaping bigger harvests, producing three times the chemical that makes your skin itch..."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center