The Unethical Character Assassination of Albert Gore, Jr.

Not one but two celebrities have recently had their public image and reputation battered by the publishing of police reports that they had been accused of sexual misconduct in alleged incidents that could not be confirmed sufficiently for the police to bring charges. One was New York Mets ace pitcher Johan Santana, who was already battling uncharacteristic ineffectiveness on the mound. The other was former Vice-President Al Gore, who also has more than enough problems in his life: such as a shattered marriage, a reeling climate change policy campaign, and the lingering memory that he received the most votes in a Presidential election yet somehow never got to live in the White House. Santana’s reputation will survive if he recovers the location on his fast ball. Al Gore, however, is genuinely and seriously harmed by the claims of a masseuse who says that Gore attempted to turn her professional massage into a forced sexual encounter.

If the police felt that the facts in the Gore allegations could not support a formal charge, then the alleged incident should have the same status as a rumor. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything. Celebrities are particularly inviting targets. A man like Gore, who has never had any reputation or pattern of sexual misconduct (in marked contrast to his former colleague, Bill Clinton), should be accorded the benefit of any doubt to the extent that this shouldn’t be news.

That is not what is happening, however. The story surfaced after a tabloid report that Gore’s surprising divorce was triggered by a long-term affair with a Hollywood liberal activist, Laurie David. The masseuse’s claim has sparked several feature stories about how common it is for men (like Al Gore!) to take advantage of young women in the legitimate massage field (like Gore’s accuser!) on the assumption that no one would accept the woman’s word over the man’s (as happened in this case!).  None of which proves that Al Gore did anything wrong. None of it is justification for holding Gore in suspicion, either. Nonetheless, the late night comics are brimming with humorous innuendo, and Gore’s reputation may be permanently damaged.

Any climate change opponents who are secretly or not-so-secretly pleased at this development need to think again. Two words: “Duke lacrosse.” This can happen to any of them, or to any of us, in the hyperactive news cycle where ethical niceties like credibility, fairness and respect are subordinate to gossip, insinuation and sensation.

Maybe Gore did something very wrong, and maybe he just had a massage, but we know no more about which of these is true than we did before the story came out. No ethical person should think less of Al Gore as a result of this unsubstantiated, and unsubstantiatable, tale.  I know it’s not easy, but it is important.  Reputations mean something, and fairness and empathy dictate that Gore’s should shield him from this smear, not be a casualty of it.

4 thoughts on “The Unethical Character Assassination of Albert Gore, Jr.

  1. Dear Jack: The last man on Earth I’d worry about is Albert Francis Gore, Jr. I can’t imagine that this obvious shakedown attempt (by a masseuse!) is going to hurt him much. Any public figure with money is vulnerable to this sort of legal extortion… and the public knows it. Besides, Gore’s character is almost as well established as that of his buddy, John Edwards. I doubt anyone will really care whether he’s innocent or guilty. He’s already made $100 million from what may be the biggest con job in history. He’s arrogant, ruthless and a conscienceless liar to boot. If “lesser lights” of the same character bilk him out of what he’s already stolen, so be it. It’s like sharks feeding on each other!

  2. Nobody reads Clarendon’s HISTORY OF THE REBELLION any more, which is a shame; in my view, it’s co-owner (with Gibbon’s DECLINE AND FALL) of the “Best History Ever Written in the English Language” award. His sentences and paragraphs are way too long for this world of sound-bites and twitters, but the remarks that he addresses to newly-appointed ministers are still worth reading:

    “The best provision that such men can make for their voyage, beside a stock of innocence that cannot be impaired, and a firm confidence in God Almighty that he will never suffer that innocence to be utterly oppressed or notoriously infamed, is an expectation of those gusts and storms of rumour, detraction, and envy; and a resolution not to be over-sensible of all calumnies, unkindness or injustice, but to believe that, being preferred before other men, they have an obligation upon them to suffer more than other men would do, and that the best way to convince scandals and misreports is, by neglecting them, to appear not to have deserved them. In a word, let no man think that, once he is entered into this list, he can by any skill or comportment prevent these conflicts and assaults, or by any stubborn or impetuous humour that he can suppress and prevail over them: but let him look at it as a purgatory he is unavoidably to pass through, and depend upon Providence and time for vindication; and by performing all the duties of his place with justice, integrity, and uprightness, give all men cause to believe that he was worthy of it the first hour.”

  3. Maybe so, Tom. But I maintain that, if ever a man was worthy of such, Gore is that man. No misreports, calumnies or scandalmongeries are needed for him. He’s already provided them by his words and deeds.

  4. I should say that the account of the masseuse is very convincing—and now she claims she has DNA evidence. Then again, she accepted big bucks from the National Enquirer for an “exclusive.” Maybe Al did behave like a ” crazed sex poodle”; maybe the police did bend the law for a VIP. It happens, as weknow. It’s just unfair to assume it happened in this case without more than a paid-publicity seeker’s word.

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