There was no way, no how, that Al Gore could have imagined his recent sale of Current T.V. to Al Jazeera would win a popularity nod from the conservative media complex. There’s simply no spin that could have overcome their predisposed dislike for an Arab news channel. Now that Al-Jazeera will have access to approximately 40 million homes, their predisposed aversion has quickly evolved into identifying Gore as an enemy of freedom. More specifically, Al Gore has pissed off conservative media.
The hell with the fact that Gore’s deal with the Arab news giant emulated the business practices of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, in the minds of many conservatives Gore sold out to the devil.
It’s fairly interesting when you think back to last year, Current T.V. was the brunt of the joke on numerous conservative talk shows. Many of them joked about the tiny audience that infrequently showed up to watch the show. The fact that Current TV was never popular with viewers, seemed to give conservatives some comfort that they had cornered the market when it comes drawing an audience on television.
Those days however, are now gone as conservatives have gone back to their old talking points do describe Gore. To sum up the old conservative view, Al Gore is a hypocrite.
Rush Limbaugh leads the attacks saying that the longtime proponent of “environmental causes” has sold his pet project to a company that relies on oil money.
On Thursday, Limbaugh went so far as to ask whether the purchased network’s female hosts will have to wear veils and burkas on camera, in keeping with Islamic law.
As is his custom, Rush somewhat answered the question by saying, “If they do, it might help raise audience levels.”
If you remember, conservatives accused Gore of being a hypocrite when he asked others to conserve energy while he lives in a mansion and flies on a private jet. Gore won an Academy Award for his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, further incensing the right, who also mock him for allegedly saying he “invented the Internet.”
The fact of the matter is they were right. Gore’s public history has consistently been a contradiction of words and deeds. Conservatives have accurately described the man.
Nevertheless, a problem arises when you realize how hypocritical they arguably are by ignoring these same characteristics in Mitt Romney. The two are almost a reflection of one another.
The Al-Jazeera deal would have certainly been one Romney’s Bain Capital would have considered making. And I believe without the presence of political expediency Romney would have made that deal. Why? because it’s a smart business deal. When you look at the facts leading up to the purchase, it’s capitalism in the classic sense.
When Gore co-founded the channel in 2005, managed to get the channel piped into tens of millions of households — a huge number for an untested network — through a combination of personal lobbying and arm-twisting of industry giants. Who can argue with that kind of negotiations; it’s business.
Gore called upon those skills again after deciding in December to sell Current TV to Al Jazeera for $500 million.
To solidify the deal and of course his chance to earn approximately $100 million Gore went revisited those distributors, who were looking for an excuse to drop the low-rated channel, and reminded them that their contracts with Current TV called it a news channel. How could they refuse the deal without looking like corporate bigots?
Reportedly, the lawyers for the carriers couldn’t find a way around it.
The headline on a FoxNews.com op-ed on Thursday was “Global warming guru Al Gore becomes rich hypocrite with sale of Current TV to Qatar, Inc.” Several analysts said that Al Jazeera overpaid for Current.
“The deep-pocketed Qatari royal family backing Al Jazeera handily outbid any other bidder’s rational bid,” the research firm PrivCo said in a note to clients.
Mr. Gore did not directly respond to those lines of criticism on Thursday. But in an e-mail message he wrote of his reason for divesting: “I am incredibly proud of what Current has been able to accomplish. But broadcast media is a business, and being an independent content producer in a time of increasing consolidation is a challenge.”
Current was never a full-time job for Mr. Gore. He is a co-founder of Generation Investment Management, an investment partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, an adviser to Google and a board member at Apple. He also is the chairman of a nonprofit called the Climate Reality Project. He rarely appeared on camera on Current.
Still, as its chairman, he was seen as crucial to the business.
“When it came to distribution issues, he was always available to make that final call. In many ways he operated like Romney; as the company’s best closer.”
So why would conservatives be so pissed off over the sale that reflected that values they highlighted as the foundation of America’s economic success.
Perhaps the answer is this question is axiomatic. Fox news and others like Limbaugh have criticized Al-Jazeera for having a pro-Islamist bent. Moreover, they have accused the media company of working with members of Al Qaeda. Many conservatives point to the fact that one of its journalists was arrested in Israel in 2011 on suspicion of being an agent of the Palestinian group Hamas. Dave Marash, a former “Nightline” reporter who worked for Al-Jazeera in Washington, said he left the network in 2008 in part because he sensed an anti-American bias there.
Marash’s report does offer a practical reason for pause. An anti-American group running an American TV station is, I admit, totally unexceptable and maybe therefore something our government should look into. But to date, the accusation is unproven and therefore, we can’t prejudge the group and summarily dismiss them on mere accusations. Such action would certainly cast a shadow over the idea of freedom we enjoy and proclaim.
What’s left in this analysis is the evidence that Gore is a good business man. In a meeting in New York, it’s been reported that he leaned on Fox TV’s Murdoch for an extended contract with a lucrative per-subscriber fee.
Gore asserted that DirecTV should carry a “diverse set of news sources.”
The resulting contract guaranteed Current roughly 10 cents per subscriber per month and helped Gore secure the financing he needed to acquire Newsworld. It also laid the groundwork for similar extensions with smaller distributors. Again, Gore business acumen is to blame.
That’s why Current, despite having one of the puniest audiences of any widely distributed cable channel, was able to post annual revenue of about $100 million.
Al Jazeera is one of the most popular media companies in the world. The new channel has promised to cater to Americans.
Nevertheless, the deal does present perhaps a few unforgiving problems for Gore. Conservatives are accurate when they point out that he has long campaigned about the environmental damage done by fossil fuels for which he won a Nobel prize. Now, in a very overt hypocritical sense, Gore has first-hand experience of its economic benefits, with Qataris paying half a billion dollars in this recent transaction.
While the deal makes the former vice president a richer man, it also gives Al Jazeera a way to expand its reach in the US.
Despite its record of awards and commendations for its international coverage, particularly during the Arab Spring, it has faced an uphill battle in convincing Americans that it is a legitimate news organisation, not a propaganda tool for oil-rich Gulf states or Islamist militants.
In Gore’s public life, nothing has really changed except the size of his wallet. His present actions arguably demonstrates a proclivity, quite frankly, for suggesting others to do as he says not as he does. He certainly appears to be a man of contradictions. However, those voices on the conservative right that want to be taken seriously cannot hide their bigotry behind Gore’s hypocrisy. Freedom is freedom and so far, Al-Jazeera still has a right to exercise the right to enjoy and express it publicly and professionally.
D. Chandler contributed to this article