Teaching Case - Al Gore and the "Embellishment" Issue: Press Coverage of the Gore Presidential Campaign

Al Gore and the "Embellishment" Issue: Press Coverage of the Gore Presidential Campaign

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  • Product Description

    Abstract:
    In late 1999, in the midst of a hotly contested race for the Democratic Party nomination for president, word of a potentially damaging "gaffe" by Vice President Al Gore began circulating in the press. Reporting on his appearance at a student forum at Concord High School in New Hampshire, the New York Times wrote that the vice president "said he was the one who had first drawn attention to the toxic contamination of Love Canal," a notorious hazardous waste site in the Niagara Falls area that had made national headlines in 1978. The Washington Post carried a similar story. As the story was picked up by other newspapers and by television, Gore was pilloried for portraying himself, unjustifiably, as the one who had first sounded the alarm about Love Canal. While he had indeed chaired the first hearings on toxic waste dumping there, critics pointed out they had come two months after the site had already been declared a disaster area by President Jimmy Carter in the wake of vociferous grassroots protests organized by a local resident. Many commentators saw in Gore's assertion another example of what one called his "penchant for embellishing the facts" and the latest in a string of exaggerations that had exposed the vice president to ridicule on talk shows and in newspaper editorials. Others, however, saw in the reportage of Gore's remark another example of the media's predilection for highlighting--and sometimes exaggerating--the vice president's verbal missteps. The discovery, some days later, that Gore's comments on Love Canal had been misquoted (and therefore, some believed, misinterpreted) sparked debate over whose foibles--Gore's or those of the press--were most tellingly revealed by the incident. This case raises the issue of how and why the press develops so-called "meta-narratives"--ongoing characterizations of a candidate's or other public figure's persona and personality-and whether such reporting is likely to be fair. It can be used in courses about both the press and electoral politics.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: October 01, 2003
    HKS Case Number: 1679.0
    Case Author: Esther Scott
    Faculty Lead: Alex Jones
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 27
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    _year: 2000-2009
    _pages: 25+
    _geography: US & Canada
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