WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Al Gore labeled Fox News a “propaganda machine,” calling for America to “restore the integrity of the conversation of democracy.”
“Fox News is an example of, essentially, a propaganda operation. Now, I don’t want to tar all of them. You have people like Shep Smith and some of the others and – who was it who did that powerful interview with Scott Pruitt? Ed Henry,” Gore said during a discussion today sponsored by Axios.
“There are a number of really fine journalists at Fox News who are doing an outstanding job, but the primetime shows and the ones that really have the big audience, it’s almost like a state propaganda organ,” he added.
Gore said the “quality of discourse on the Internet” has been “corrupted.”
“I think it’s been really damaged,” he said. “Only in the last few years has the extend of the damage become clear to people.”
The moderator, Mike Allen, asked Gore what other media outlets should do to “rise to this moment.”
“There was a movement 100 years ago or more called objective journalism. The Associated Press, the New York Times and I think most people who get into journalism really have this model in mind,” he said. “The overwhelming majority find the best available evidence and test it in discourse and find out what those who disagree with the best evidence think and if they’re clearly nonsensical, don’t worry about it. But try to present to the people the best most accurate version of what seems to be more likely than not to be true.”
The former senator from Tennessee said the “real advantage” that led to “the rise” of the U.S. among other nations was that it based its “collective decision-makings on freedom of speech and a very carefully calibrated system dividing power so that it doesn’t agglomerate in unhealthy concentrations and we were able to harvest the wisdom of crowds and trust in the judgment of the people when free discourse illuminated the best pathways forward.”
Citing the Iraq war, Gore said the U.S. government has made some “really stupid decisions” in the last couple of decades.
“Of course we made many mistakes, but we made far fewer than other nations and we made much better decisions consistently than any other nation on Earth – that’s changed now. For the last couple of decades, we’ve been making some really stupid decisions – invading a country that didn’t attack us, admiring ourselves in an endless war, failing to regulate casino versions of capitalism that led to the Great Recession and the financial crisis of ’08,” he said.
“I could give you, unfortunately, a lot of other examples. And choosing even today to pretend that the science of climate is somehow a hoax and that it’s not real – that is extremely harmful because it’s based on falsehoods. So we need to restore the integrity of the conversation of democracy so we can once again tap into the wisdom of the American people,” he added.
Gore blasted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has come under fire for ethics issues including renting a condo from the wife of a lobbyist. Pruitt is scheduled to testify at two separate hearings on Capitol Hill this week. Gore recently called on President Trump to fire Pruitt.
“I don’t know why he’s still in office,” Gore said. “I think the big grifters depend on the little grifter and I think the Koch brothers and other large polluters depend on keeping him there to continue basing environmental policy on falsehoods, and so they’ve pressured President Trump to overlook the extreme daily embarrassments coming to his administration because of Scott Pruitt. Well, I won’t predict what’s going to happen. I mean, surely to God somebody in the White House will say, ‘enough already.’”
Gore praised former FBI Director James Comey, who recently released the book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.
“I think he’s clearly a pillar of integrity. I think he’s a truth-teller,” he said. “I think whatever flaws have been manifested – and he, himself, has written about some of them – will be for history to judge.”
Gore applauded special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election.
“I think our country is extremely fortunate to have a man of such character, experience, wisdom and professionalism in a position that may turn out to be the pivot point of the early part of, a pivot point for American history,” he said. “I don’t remember a time when a single individual in a position of that kind was so almost universally respected. There has been, of course, the White House has orchestrated a campaign to try to attack him.”
Gore expanded on his “pivot point” statement.
“Well, we’re only a little over a year into this experiment with Donald Trump, and in science and medicine some experiments are terminated early for ethical reasons,” he said to laugher from crowd.
Gore described 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as an “incredibly smart and talented public servant.”
“She and I agree on so many issues and I wish her well in the aftermath of the last campaign,” he said. “I know a little bit about what that feels like and I think she’ll be fine.”
Following the discussion, PJM began to ask Gore a follow-up question.
“Nice to see you. Thank you. I’m not doing interviews,” he replied.