If you're Al Gore and you own 20 percent of Current TV, and Current TV is sold to Al Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar's royal family, and Qatar's royal family also profits from oil trading, have you sold out the cause of global warming?
That's the question Howie Kurtz brought up on Reliable Sources this morning. I think it's a manufactured issue, but Dana Milbank begs to differ, saying "[H]e's been a big spokesman on global warming, a principled man and now he is this big, fat target." Continuing his rant, Milbank said Gore is "worth $300 million more than Mitt Romney and basically he's seen as a guy now who enriched himself, rather than advancing his cause -- opening up to the criticism of people like this global warming denier."
The Blaze writer Amy Holmes was predictably banal in her response, claiming Gore has "been telling the rest of the world to, you know, restrain and constrain our spending while he personally is becoming a wealthier man through, you know, his attack on Mother Nature."
What does that even mean? Does anyone think Al Gore bought Current TV in order to further his cause around global warming --so he could make a boatload of money on climate change? Really?
Finally, what does Mitt Romney's wealth have to do with it, anyway? Gore's wealth has come from sitting on the boards of Google and Apple after he left public office. He cashed in. Did anyone decide he was insincere about global warming because of those affiliations?
Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt bought a struggling cable network for $70 million in 2004. When Current was sold in 2013 for a price reported to be about $500 million, Gore's profit would be 20 percent of that sale price, less any financing that may have been obtained between 2004 and 2013. I have no idea what those financing arrangements might have been, but they either financed or else put their own funds in over the years in order to keep the doors open on what wasn't a particularly profitable enterprise.
For its part, Al Jazeera needed a channel with carriers. They have online traction, but were having difficulty finding cable carriers that would include their channel. By purchasing Current, they hoped to use Current's position as a channel already carried to build a news network competitive with CNN, which might explain why Time-Warner cable dropped Current the day the deal was announced.
I'm sure Comcast will follow suit, because when you own everything from cable to internet to pipeline to content creators, why bother with any voices you don't like?
At any rate, I'm having a great deal of difficulty connecting his sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera with a sellout of his credibility on climate change. I also don't view him as the sole authority on the question, but he is one who has credibility simply because he has been passionate and has put his money where his mouth is.
Gore defended himself during an interview with Matt Lauer earlier this week, reminding viewers that Al Jazeera has actually done a better job covering climate change issues than American media outlets. I haven't actually done a comparison, but it is true that our corporate media ignores climate change as much as they possibly can, because our oil barons appear to be even more militant about what their media can report.
To me, the jury is still out. I have mixed feelings about Al Jazeera English and am not sure whether Al Jazeera America will turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. But if it pushes our corporate media to move toward something like journalism again, then I view that as a benefit and not a sellout.
PBS' Terrence Smith summed it up well before Howie 'rehabilitated' him:
SMITH: This strikes me as nonsense. He -- I think there's a certain amount of envy here for all the money he's made.
KURTZ: Is the questioning nonsense? Should he get a free pass on interviews on something --
SMITH: Fine. But --
KURTZ: You think the issue is nonsense.
SMITH: I think the idea that he is somehow adding to global warming by handing this over to Al Jazeera...
KURTZ: It's a question of political hypocrisy.
HOLMES: Sure, it's a fair question.
SMITH: A stretch beyond a stretch.
Yes, it is a stretch beyond a stretch. But it also highlights a pervasive idea that has now soaked in and taken root in media; that is, that media outlets are nothing more than the mouthpieces of their owners, and shouldn't have independence or credibility on their own.
Full transcript is here.