The Nation: Fox News – The Liars’ Network

The Nation – Eric Alterman

In July 1999 Vice President Al Gore paddled down the Connecticut River in New Hampshire to spread what then–Rolling Stone reporter Eric Boehlert termed “his green theme of protecting the environment” while posing for the obvious photo-op. His hopes for making this message heard, however, went over the side when Bill Sammon, a reporter for the then-Moonie-owned Washington Times, wrote that local authorities had granted Gore a special favor when they released nearly 4 billion gallons of water from a nearby dam, at a cost of $7 million, in order to (literally) float Gore’s boat. As Boehlert noted in his masterful forensic audit of the story, Sammon’s point was clear: “In a clumsy abuse of power, Al Gore, a supposed friend of the environment, gladly wasted precious natural resources to stage-manage a political event.”

The rest of the press corps swallowed and regurgitated Sammon’s item, all but unmasticated. Newsweek dubbed it the “photo op from hell,” and CNN covered the “wave of criticism after floodgates are opened on a New Hampshire river to keep Al Gore afloat.” The New York Times report mocked the “mishap,” and the Washington Post chuckled with its readers about “Gore’s Four Billion Gallons for a Photo Op.”

Alas, it was almost all fiction. Nobody connected to the Gore campaign ever requested the release of the water. (The Secret Service did.) The correct figure for the amount of water released was 500 million gallons, or one-eighth of the amount roundly reported. The local utility company that operates the dam was already dumping millions of gallons into the parched Connecticut River every day, but for Gore’s trip this routine exercise was moved up a few hours. The alleged $7 million cost was also made up. The water in question made its way through hydroelectric turbines that generated power to be sold by the utility companies.

When Boehlert contacted Sammon, he waved off the question of accuracy entirely, because, he said, the story successfully made “a point about Gore’s political reflexes, [which are] to spin furiously and resort to deception.”

Continue reading…