Al Gore Prone to Exaggeration

Last December, Gore acknowledged accidentally misleading reporters aboard Air Force Two to believe he and Tipper were the inspiration for the 1970s romance novel Love Story. A spokeswoman said it was a simple “miscommunication.”

These statements could be written off as verbal gaffes, but a slew of other less well-known exaggerations could not — and many were exposed only after a close examination of the facts.

For the Dogs

On Aug. 28, at a forum with seniors in Tallahassee, Fla., Gore used a personal example to illustrate the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. He told his audience that his mother-in-law, Margaret Ann Aitcheson, pays nearly three times as much for the arthritis medicine Lodine as he pays to get the same medication for his dog, Shiloh. It was a tale told at least twice before — at an assisted living center in Eugene, Ore. and at a community college in Cincinnati — but it wasn’t quite true.

The monthly costs he cited — $108 for his wife Tipper’s mom and $37.80 for his black, Labrador retriever — were, campaign officials later admitted, from a congressional study of wholesale prices and not the actual retail prices paid by him or his mother-in-law.

“The issue is not her,” Gore responded. “The issue is what seniors around this country are paying.”

Five months earlier, it was the vice president’s own mother, Pauline LaFon Gore, who was the subject of an embellishment. In a speech to the Nashville City Club in Tennessee, the vice president recounted how his mother was invited for lunch at the club in 1971, only to be kicked out of the main dining room due to the club’s all-male policy.

“The resulting outrage … caused a revolution,” said Gore. “And a few days later, this City Club was opened to women and the charter was changed.”

The club did start allowing women into its dining area, albeit after several weeks — not “a few days.” But even after Mrs. Gore’s protests, women could only enter if accompanied by male members. And they were not allowed to become members themselves until 14 years later.

His mother made another memorable appearance in a story the Republicans pounced on as another example of Gore’s storytelling: On Sept. 18, when the vice president told a Teamsters conference in Las Vegas that she sang him to sleep as a child by singing, “Look for the Union Label.”

The jingle, however, was not written until 1975, when Gore was 27. While aides insisted the line was clearly a lighthearted joke and a standard part of his stump speeches, Republicans pointed to it as another mark against him. The Gore camp later claimed he had meant to cite a different, older song.

Exaggerated Exaggerations?

“I think this whole exaggeration thing is exaggerated by the press,” said Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway. “The press jumps all over verbal stumbles and honest mistakes.”

Hattaway accused the media of misrepresenting many of the vice president’s statements. “He never said he invented the Internet — that was an exaggeration by the press … The lullaby thing was a joke. And his mother-in-law’s prescription does cost more than his dog’s.”

Reporters were to blame for at least one inaccurate report of an embellishment that wasn’t. In November 1999, Gore boasted to students, parents and teachers at a New Hampshire high school that he was the first to call for a congressional hearing into a toxic waste disaster in the 1970s.

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