Activists Protest Gore's Honorary Degree at University of Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Activists took to the campus of the University of Tennessee on Friday to protest Al Gore's honorary doctorate for his work on climate change as the man behind a documentary challenging Gore hired a bannered-plane to fly over the graduation ceremony.

Protesters handed out mock graduation programs and degrees as well as dressed in Gore masks to add to the theatrical flare.

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Phelim McAleer, who made headlines for the film "Not Evil, Just Wrong," which challenges Gore's Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth" told that the sign behind the plane reads, "Mr. Gore, why send jobs to China?"

"What he is proposing has a very, very serious effect on America and the American economy," McAleer said, noting that he has tried many venues to get Gore to answer his questions about the data, which has come under suspicion following the release of thousands of e-mails from climate scientists that raise questions about internationally accepted data. 

"I am disappointed that Al Gore has come to Knoxville and is once again appearing in public but won't makes himself available to journalists," McAleer said.

Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work on global warming. "An Inconvenient Truth" was awarded an Oscar for documentary filmmaking and several other accolades.

Gore was awarded an honorary doctorate in laws and humane letters in ecology and evolutionary biology by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

In awarding the degree, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said the former vice president is "among the most accomplished and respected Tennesseans in history."

"Vice President Gore's career has been marked by visionary leadership, and his work has quite literally changed our planet for the better," Cheek said in a university announcement of the award.

But members of the group called Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, described as a "non-profit, nationwide grassroots organization that deals with environmental and energy issues from a free-market perspective," say the former vice president is completely misguided.

"First he got a Nobel prize although he didn't bring peace, now he's getting an honorary degree for scaring Americans with flawed science," Dillon MacDonald, a CFACT-TN leader said in a statement on the group's website. "He flies in private jets, just bought another mansion, yet tells working people their houses are too large, their showers too warm, their cars too fast and our economy too free. We should give him a doctors in hypocrisy."

Evan Dent, a member of CFACT, told that about 25 protesters were kept in a "free-speech zone" a fair distance from the 10,000-15,000 guests attending commencement ceremonies, but that hadn't stopped them from making their opposition known.

"It is a graduation, these students deserve to have their moment to shine but we also want to say, 'Hey, it's bad the university is honoring Al Gore,'" she said.