Al Gore Dogged by Questions About Al Jazeera Deal on Book Tour

Al Gore Podium - P 2012
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Al Gore Podium - P 2012

The vice president is spending more time defending Current TV's sale to the Qatar network than talking about his new book on global warming.

Authors like to complain about the rigors of promotional campaigns, but Al Gore really is on the book tour from hell.

The former vice president, Academy Award-winner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate recently hit the talk-show circuit to promote his portentously titled new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Social Change, but all that even normally sympathetic hosts want to talk about is the sale of his Current cable network to Al Jazeera.

VIDEO: Jon Stewart Grills Al Gore on Current Sale to Al Jazeera

Conservatives and good-government types have been grousing ever since the deal was announced, because they allege the foundering news operation’s only real value was its slots on numerous cable systems, something -- they grumble -- Gore used his “green” credentials and still-considerable political clout to obtain. Al Jazeera paid $500 million for Current, and an estimated $100 million of that went to the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Now even talk-show hosts with nominally liberal views and environmental credentials of their own are demanding that Gore reconcile his views on climate change with the sale to a network owned by a Persian Gulf emirate -- Qatar -- whose financial resources are entirely based on the sale of fossil fuels.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, for example, wondered how "mogul Al Gore" could be squared with "activist Al Gore?”

Stewart mused, "In your cost-benefit analysis, one of the major factors would be, I would think, sustainability. You had an opportunity to make a statement, probably, about your principles, and some people would feel -- and me, as well -- I thought it was an odd move ... because it's backed by fossil-fuel money.”

CBS’ David Letterman hit a similar critique. “So you're selling this television network to a gas-and-oil-supported emirate,” he said. “Isn't that one of the problems with global warming, our dependence on petroleum-producing countries?"

“Yes, it is,” Gore replied.

“So you, Al Gore, are doing business with this country that's enabling your ultimate foe of climate change,” Letterman retorted.

Gore demurred, citing -- as he did on Stewart’s show -- Al Jazeera's extensive coverage of climate change and other environmental issues. He similarly rejected Letterman’s questions about whether some of the notoriously anti-Israel network’s programming “may be propaganda for Muslim violence and terrorism.”

ANALYSIS: How Al Gore Lost Current From the Start

Gore’s appearance on NBC’s Today was best summed up in a New York Post headline: “Al Gore sidesteps ‘hypocrisy’ questions on ‘Today.’"

"Is bluster considered part of global warming?" the paper asked.

Host Matt Lauer asked, “Here’s the guy who just sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, which gets an undetermined amount of funds from Qatar, which gets its money from oil reserves. Isn’t there a contradiction in that?”

Gore denied the implication, but Lauer followed up, “But if [Al Jazeera] gets funding from a country that bases its wealth on fossil fuels, and fossil fuels is the enemy [of environmentalism], isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy in that?”