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.
“I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal,” he said. “I had the first hearing on that issue … that was the one that started it all.”
Many news organizations incorrectly quoted the vice president as saying, “I was the one that started it all.”
“The press screwed up the Love Canal thing because he never said he discovered it,” said Hattaway.
Campaign Trail Fodder
Every time Gore plays fast and loose with the facts, regardless of the subject matter, it provides campaign trail fodder for his opponents. On Friday, the Bush campaign was in full attack mode.
“He seems to have a compulsion to embellish his arguments,” vice-presidential nominee Dick Cheney told reporters aboard his campaign plane. “This is a man who’s got significant accomplishments … and yet seems to have this uncontrollable desire periodically to add to his reputation, to his record, things that aren’t true.”
And Bush spokesman Ray Sullivan said the campaign has no intention of dropping the issue of Gore’s “truthfulness” in the final weeks of the campaign.
“We will keep pressing the issue so long as Al Gore keeps making up stories out of whole cloth,” he said. “It is certainly a legitimate concern.”
“We don’t attack Bush for his crimes against the English language,” countered Hattaway, referring to the Texas governor’s numerous gaffes and mispronunciations.
“There’s a huge and significant difference between making up stories and facts and an occasional slip of the tongue,” said Sullivan. “This is not just an occasional problem for the vice president. It seems to be a pattern of embellishments.”
And Gore’s Republican rivals and the media are not the only people questioning the veracity of certain statements made by the vice president. Robert Conrad Jr., the supervising attorney heading up the Justice Department’s campaign finance probe, recommended to Attorney General Janet Reno in June that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate whether Gore made false statements under oath. Conrad concluded that Gore was less than truthful in an April 18 interview on his role in allegedly improper campaign finance practices.