WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Al Gore blasted the media Wednesday in a lengthy New York Observer interview, saying that the mainstream press has no mechanism to bring back Americans brainwashed by conservative outlets.
"The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party," Gore said in an interview scheduled in the middle of his national book tour.
Gore criticized some media specifically as biased.
"Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh — there's a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media," he said.
A journalist in Vietnam before entering politics, Gore suggested that objective news is being undermined and some media don't even see it. He compared the reporting of conservative views now to the reporting of communist views during the McCarthy era, when a so-called fifth column of subversive journalists inserted pro-communist propaganda into their reporting.
"Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks. That is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective," he said.
Hillary Clinton called it a vast right-wing conspiracy; Gore said it begins at the Republican National Committee and turns into an "echo chamber."
"And pretty soon, they'll start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they've pushed into the zeitgeist."
Websters Dictionary defines zeitgeist as the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era. Gore accuses so-called mainstream media of going along with the conservative conspiracy.
"And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist."
Gore's criticisms follow those by outgoing Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the outgoing majority leader, who complained on the last day of the 107th session that conservative talk shows like Rush Limbaugh's had created an environment that was not only increasingly negative but had led to threats against him and his family.
"We see this in foreign countries and we think, 'Well, my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent?' It's that same shrill rhetoric, the same shrill power that motivates. Someone says something and then it becomes a little more shrill next time, and then more shrill the next time. Pretty soon, it's a foment that becomes physical in addition to just verbal, and that's happening in this country," Daschle said.
The White House, which had tried to stay out of the debate last week, said earlier this week that Daschle was making an ill comparison.
"It is not appropriate to compare fundamentalism abroad with people in America who hold deep views about legitimate, democratic, political dialogue," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "It's not accurate or is it appropriate to draw a connection between fundamentalism that leads to terrorism abroad and Americans on either side of political debate who may hold deeply held views in the finest of peaceful American traditions in which we are free to clash over ideas."
For his part, Limbaugh responded that since the sudden growth in popularity for conservative talk shows and the equal airing of views on cable news, Democrats are themselves brain-washed that a "right-wing conspiracy" exists.
"They don't refute the issues that we stand for. They don't refute the points we make. They just attack us personally, and now Fox and all this other media, they get challenged. They had a free run for all those years with the mainstream press just parroting whatever they said, and those days are over," Limbaugh said.
But Gore stands by his assertions, even though he acknowledges that criticism of him is not limited to any particular media outlets, and frequently comes from many within his party. He said he will keep it in mind if he decides to run again, a decision he said that he won't make publicly before the New Year.
"I'm well aware that the political insiders and political-journalism community have a considerable amount of influence, and even though I'm stronger at the grassroots level, I think that if I did run again, I would have to convince those two groups that I've learned enough in the last couple of years to run a better campaign than I did last time. I don't think that there's a thing that I could say and no words I could choose that could accomplish that. The way to convince them would be in actually doing it," he said.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.