Chris Matthews on Al Gore - Part II

20 November 2007

Chris Matthews on Al Gore in 2001 and before:

He doesn’t look like one of us. He doesn’t seem very American, even.
He's taking up something rather unconventional, the three-button male suit jacket. I always—my joke is, “I'm Albert, I'll—I'll be your waiter tonight.” I mean, I don't know anybody who buttons all three buttons, even if they have them. What could that possibly be saying to women voters, three buttons? ... Is there some hidden Freudian deal here or what? I don't know, I mean, Navy guys used to have buttons on their pants. I don't know what it means.

Chris Matthews on Al Gore today (via Digby):
Michael, Michael, there's a big difference between what happened to Al Gore and John Kerry. John Kerry got hit unfairly by the Swift Boats attacking his service to his country. They conflated his opposition to the war when he came back which we can all argue about, and his service to his country which is not really arguable. They trashed him.

But in terms of Al Gore, he's the one who said he created the internet, he's the one who put out the word that he's the subject or the role model for Love Story, that he pointed the country's attention to Love Canal. He stuck himself into that story.

And when Marty Peretz's daughter wrote that story in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago, I'm sorry, she didn't make the case. Gore got himself in those problem areas by vanity and showing off an trying to make himself cool. But John Kerry got unfair treatment. I think it's a big difference guys.

Crowley: that may be so, but it's not how many Democrats feel.

CM: Well, why would expect a partisan to think anything more than partisan? That's what partisans think? Of course they think they were rooked. Everyone who loses an election thinks they were rooked and they blame it on the umpire.

Crowley: That's the audience they're speaking to.

CM: Yeah, well how about getting into the land of truth and understanding?

Wow. Let's take a look at those three examples Matthews just used right there.
  1. "he's the one who said he created the Internet": Wow, this meme will never die as long as we have "journalists" like Chris Matthews. Al Gore did not claim that he personally created the Internet. He was talking about his initiatives in the Senate that helped enable the growth of the Internet: "when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet, and he sponsored the 1988 National High-Performance Computer Act (which established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network) and cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (which opened the Internet to commercial traffic)." Although his phrasing was awkward at the time, anyone with a brain could tell what he was actually saying.
  2. "he's the one who put out the word that he's the subject or the role model for Love Story": This meme was dead-wrong 10 years ago, and it's dead-wrong today. Here's what happened. On a 1997 plane ride, Al Gore was in the press section, "swapping opinions about movies and telling stories about old chums" to the reporters. Gore's "old chums" included Eric Segal (the author of Love Story) and actor Tommy Lee Jones. Gore told one of these reporters that Segal had told some Tennessee reporters that the characters in Love Story were based on him and his wife. It turns out that the Tennesse paper itself did say that, but it was later retracted as a misquote. What Segal actually told the reporter (but which got garbled by the reporter) was that one of the characters in Love Story was based upon both Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. All Al Gore did was accurately remember what was reported in the Nashville Tennessean. "Journalists" like Chris Matthews, however, have endless mangled this and beaten it into some twisted narrative of Al-Gore-the-liar.
  3. "that he pointed the country's attention to Love Canal": Once again, Chris Matthews is wrong. This entire story stemmed from a misquote of Al Gore, which was later corrected. What Al Gore said was that he had spoken to a girl from Toone, Tennessee in the 1970s about a problem with toxic waste in Toone. Afterwards, he called for a congressional hearing and investigations, looking "for other sites like that." He then became aware of the situation in Love Canal. Gore then said that Toone "was the one that started it all." The Washington Post misquoted him as saying "I was the one who started it all," when the transcript shows he said "that was the one that started it all" (clearly referring to Toone, which prompted the congressional investigation and hearings). The Washington Post later corrected this misquote, but not before the meme of Al-Gore-the-liar had spread like wildfire.

So there you have it. Chris Matthews is a shitty journalist. But what really got me was how he got all puffed up at the end, as if people who report on the facts are "partisans," while he rules "the land of truth and understanding."

This is the kind of horseshit journalism we can all look forward to in 2008 unless people start calling Matthews out.

BONUS: More "truth and understanding" from Chris Matthews

UPDATE: Michael Crowley, who weakly agreed with Chris Matthews in the above exchange, was apparently just as bad as Matthews (eh, maybe not that bad) in the 2000 election.

UPDATE II: Media Matters just put out a story about this awful Chris Matthews segment, and provides some examples of how Chris Matthews pushed these awful memes back in 1999 and 2000 (and beyond, up to this very day).

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