Former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday defended the sale of his Current TV channel to Al Jazeera.
“As an independent network, the only independent news and information network, we found it difficult to compete in an age of conglomerates,” Gore said on NBC’s “Today” show. “And I’m very pleased Al Jazeera has established itself as a really respected news gathering network.”
Host Matt Lauer argued that Al Jazeera, which acquired Current earlier this month, is backed in part by the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, tying the network to money from oil reserves. He asked Gore, a climate change crusader who has blasted oil money, whether there was a “contradiction in that.”
“I certainly understand that criticism,” Gore said. “I disagree with it. I think Al Jazeera has, obviously, long since established itself as a really distinguished and effective news gathering organization. And by the way, its climate coverage has been far more extensive and high-quality.”
Lauer interrupted, noting that Gore targets “fossil fuels” as part of his crusade against climate change, but reiterated that Qatar’s wealth is based on those substances.
“Isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy in that?” he asked.
“Well, I get the criticism,” Gore repeated. “I just disagree with it, because this network has established itself. It’s objective, it’s won major awards in countries around the world and its climate coverage, as I said a moment ago, has been outstanding and extensive.”
Gore, who has been critical of President Barack Obama’s record so far on combating climate change, praised the president’s second Inaugural address for tackling the issue.
“What he said in his Inaugural address last week, I thought was fantastic,” Gore said. “It was the first issue he talked about, he spent more time on that than on anything else.”
Gore, the former Democratic presidential nominee, said that Obama made progress on climate matters in his first term, even though those first four years weren’t perfect.
“In his first term, even though, yes, he fell short, he ended up doing more than any previous president,” Gore said. “And the opposition has been very difficult.”
On the subject of the next president, Gore demurred.
“I’m going to resist getting drawn into that,” he said, when asked about fellow Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential prospects. “I love Joe, and there are others who no doubt will run. I do genuinely believe that just a week after we inaugurated President Obama, it’s premature to get into the horse race.”
Gore also jabbed the media for focusing too much on the ups-and-downs of the presidential race during 2012 and skipping questions about climate change policy.
“Not one journalist anywhere in the U.S. asked any question during the debates about the biggest issue we’re facing, the climate crisis,” Gore said. “Now the horse race stories are easy to write and it’s just kind of a template that we get into and it’s totally understandable. But we need to really dig in in our democracy the way we used to and grapple with the problems that face us.”