The GOP release then doctored Gore's quote a bit more. After all, it would be grammatically incorrect to have said, "I was the one that started it all." So, the Republican handout fixed Gore's grammar to say, "I was the one who started it all." In just one day, the key quote had gone from "that was the one that started it all" to "I was the one that started it all" to "I was the one who started it all."
Instead of challenging the misquote -- and then surely getting pummeled for appearing overly defensive -- Gore tried to head off the silly controversy by clarifying his meaning and apologizing if anyone got the wrong impression. But the fun was just starting. The national pundit shows quickly picked up the story of Gore's new "exaggeration."
"Let's talk about the "love' factor here," chortled Chris Matthews of CNBC's "Hardball" show. "Here's the guy who said he was the character Ryan O'Neal was based on in "Love Story.' " It seems to me " he's now the guy who created the Love Canal [case]. I mean, isn't this getting ridiculous? " Isn't it getting to be delusionary?"
Matthews turned to his baffled guest, Lois Gibbs, the Love Canal resident who is widely credited with bringing the issue to public attention. She sounded confused about why Gore would claim credit for discovering Love Canal, but defended Gore's hard work on the issue.
"I actually think he's done a great job," Gibbs said. "I mean, he really did work, when nobody else was working, on trying to define what the hazards were in this country and how to clean it up and helping with the Superfund and other legislation." [CNBC's Hardball, Dec. 1, 1999]
The next morning, the Post's Connolly highlighted Gore's boast and placed it in his alleged pattern of falsehoods. "Add Love Canal to the list of verbal missteps by Vice President Gore," she wrote. "The man who mistakenly claimed to have inspired the movie "Love Story' and to have invented the Internet says he didn't quite mean to say he discovered a toxic waste site." [Washington Post, Dec. 2, 1999]
That night, CNBC's "Hardball" returned to Gore's Love Canal quote by playing a clip but altering the context by starting Gore's comments with the words, "I found a little town"...
"It reminds me of Snoopy thinking he's the Red Baron," laughed Chris Matthews. "I mean how did he get this idea? Now you've seen Al Gore in action. I know you didn't know that he was the prototype for Ryan O'Neal's character in 'Love Story' or that he invented the Internet. He now is the guy who discovered Love Canal."
Matthews compared the Vice President to "Zelig," the Woody Allen character whose face appeared at an unlikely procession of historic events. "What is it, the Zelig guy who keeps saying, 'I was the main character in 'Love Story.' I invented the Internet. I invented Love Canal.'"
Gore's "Bold-Faced Lie'
The following day, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post elaborated on Gore's pathology of deception. "Again, Al Gore has told a whopper," the Post wrote. "Again, he's been caught red-handed and again, he has been left sputtering and apologizing. This time, he falsely took credit for breaking the Love Canal story. ... Yep, another Al Gore bold-faced lie."
The editorial continued: "Al Gore appears to have as much difficulty telling the truth as his boss, Bill Clinton. But Gore's lies are not just false, they're outrageously, stupidly false. It's so easy to determine that he's lying, you have to wonder if he wants to be found out.
"Does he enjoy the embarrassment? Is he hell-bent on destroying his own campaign? ... Of course, if Al Gore is determined to turn himself into a national laughingstock, who are we to stand in his way?"
The Love Canal controversy soon moved beyond the Washington-New York power axis. On Dec. 6, 1999, The Buffalo News ran an editorial entitled, "Al Gore in Fantasyland," that echoed the words of RNC chief Nicholson. It stated, "Never mind that he didn't invent the Internet, serve as the model for 'Love Story' or blow the whistle on Love Canal. All of this would be funny if it weren't so disturbing."
The next day, the right-wing Washington Times judged Gore crazy. "The real question is how to react to Mr. Gore's increasingly bizarre utterings," the Times wrote. "Webster's New World Dictionary defines "delusional' thusly: "The apparent perception, in a nervous or mental disorder, of something external that is actually not present " a belief in something that is contrary to fact or reality, resulting from deception, misconception, or a mental disorder.'"
The editorial denounced Gore as "a politician who not only manufactures gross, obvious lies about himself and his achievements but appears to actually believe these confabulations."