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Too Much Gore on TV

     It was the summer of love all over again. Only this time we didn’t have hookah pipes, tie-dyed shirts and the Doors singing “People Are Strange.” All journalists had was their love for one man – Al Gore – and this summer he and the media both proved the song was right.


     Yes, that Al Gore – the former vice president now turned into full-time global warming pitchman. The media couldn’t get enough of the Wonk-in-Chief. The newly crowned movie star and his type of documentary – cinema scare-ité were discussed on at least 99 TV shows from network news to the SciFi Channel. This summer was hot, but Gore was smokin’ – enough to earn a cover photo on Entertainment Weekly.


     That same face appeared on at least 75 TV shows in just three months on the networks.  By the end of July, Gore and his movie had spent more than five hours and 38 minutes on national television since May Day.


     That’s enough to sleep through his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” more than three-and-a-half times.


     The movie was far easier to avoid than the media blitz. You didn’t have to go to the theater. But Gore invaded almost every home. Gore and his film cropped up on the small screen like weeds everywhere from “The View” and “Saturday Night Live” to “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and “NBC Nightly News.”


     Larry King interviewed him at length. Gore guest hosted “Saturday Night Live” and a skit cast him into an alternate universe where he had won the election “overwhelmingly” and defeated global warming as well. In one appearance, he was shown dancing with Katie Couric as part of her “Today” farewell. In another, she raved about how he appeared in the film.


      “I think in this movie at different turns, you're funny, vulnerable, disarming, self-effacing. And someone said after watching it quote, 'if only he was like this before, maybe things would have turned out differently in 2000,’” Couric told her “Today” audience on May 24.


     Even the SciFi Channel got into the act in June, including clips from “An Inconvenient Truth” during a two-hour documentary about how the world might end. That “Countdown to Doomsday,” hosted by “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer, lumped death by evil robots and alien invasion together with Gore’s fears about the earth becoming a bad remake of “Water World.” Even SciFi rated Gore’s fear mongering fourth on its threat list.


     But that was as bad as things got for Gore this summer. His movie received more attention than another science fiction film released almost the same day. “X-Men III – The Last Stand” ranks third on the year’s box office list, but it had only 25 appearances on the networks in the identical three-month period. The third installment in the X-Men series raked in more than $233 million – 10 times “An Inconvenient Truth’s” $22 million.


     Like a bag of trash left too long in the sun, Gore’s overexposure began to smell.  It was obvious that something was wrong when the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute took a detailed look at this summer's TV. As a TV executive himself, Gore might even appreciate the irony of getting so much free publicity from his competitors. Gore is chairman of Current TV, which broadcasts a collection of short-but-lame videos – sort of a bad version of Youtube.com.


     When the media weren't embracing his global warming shtick, they were speculating about a possible new run for the presidency.


     Again, entertainment media went hand-in-hand with the news media on this one. The June 29 episode of “The View” was a veritable celebration of Gore. Host Joy Behar begged him to run for the highest office in the land. “Can I ask you a question, if you were to run for president again, which I wish you would do that. I really do. Alright that’s just me. That’s my opinion, I would vote for you in a minute. I love Hillary too; I’d like to see the two of you on the same ticket,” cajoled Behar.


     News organizations kept speculating that Behar would get her wish about Gore running again. A May 17, story on CNN’s “The Situation Room” had Jack Cafferty commenting, “Al Gore says he’s not running for president again.” But the segment, titled “Here We Gore Again?” downplayed the denial. Reporter Brian Todd referred to Gore’s plan not to run as a “line he’s used with reporters more than once recently.” 


     No wonder – Al Gore has spent so much time with reporters in the last few months that he might renew his ancient press credentials. At five hours and 38 minutes, that’s the kind of attention even a presidential candidate would love.


     Dan Gainor is a career journalist and The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow. He is also director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute www.businessandmedia.org. Researcher Rachel Waters contributed to this piece.