Filling in for Fox News Radio 600 KCOL host Scott James, guest co-host Jesse Herron repeated the long-debunked falsehoods that former Vice President Al Gore claimed to have "invented the Internet" and that U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "banned military uniforms from certain parts of the White House" when she was first lady.
During the July 24 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang, guest co-host Jesse Herron repeated the long-debunked conservative falsehood that former senator and Vice President Al Gore claimed he "invented the Internet." As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Gore is widely credited with having secured vital government support for the development of the Internet, but never claimed to have "invented" it. Later, Herron also repeated the myth that while she was first lady, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) banned the wearing of military uniforms in the White House.
Herron, who in 2006 was a failed Libertarian candidate for Larimer County assessor, was discussing the July 23 Democratic presidential candidate debate with guest co-host Linda Heuer. Questions for the candidates in the debate, which was sponsored by CNN and YouTube, came from YouTube users who posed them via video clips.
From the July 24 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang:
HERRON: This is the woman [Sen. Clinton] who wanted to take and mandate that your child go to a state school and -- get this one, this is really funny -- if you did not allow your children to go to the school, if you did not force your children to go to the school, they would send counselors to your house to evaluate your house living. If they found that you were keeping your child from school you would then be charged with a felony.
HEUER: I wonder if they did that to Gore with their --
HERRON: He didn't have to --
HEUER: That, that was mean, wasn't it?
HERRON: -- he invented the Internet. He invented the Internet so he didn't have to go to school.
The myth that Gore made such a claim appears to be based on a distortion of a March 9, 1999, interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer in which Gore noted that as a member of Congress, he "took the initiative in creating the Internet":
BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.
Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?
GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.
But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
The distortion of Gore's remark that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" apparently originated in a March 11, 1999, Wired News article by Declan McCullagh, which stated, "It's a time-honored tradition for presidential hopefuls to claim credit for other people's successes. But Al Gore as the father of the Internet? That's what the campaigner in chief told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview Tuesday evening." In a March 23, 1999, follow-up article, McCullagh first used the word "invented" in relation to Gore's remarks: "Al Gore's timing was as unfortunate as his boast. Just as Republicans were beginning to eye the 2000 presidential race in earnest, the vice president offered up a whopper of a tall tale in which he claimed to have invented the Internet."
However, McCullagh later clarified in an October 17, 2000, Wired News article that "Gore never did claim to have 'invented' the Internet." McCullagh further explained that following his article, congressional Republicans and journalists perpetuated the myth:
Which brings us to an important question: Are the countless jibes at Al's expense truly justified? Did he really play a key part in the development of the Net?
The short answer is that while even his supporters admit the vice president has an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate, the truth is that Gore never did claim to have "invented" the Internet.
During a March 1999 CNN interview, while trying to differentiate himself from rival Bill Bradley, Gore boasted: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
That statement was enough to convince me, with the encouragement of my then-editor James Glave, to write a brief article that questioned the vice president's claim. Republicans on Capitol Hill noticed the Wired News writeup and started faxing around tongue-in-cheek press releases -- inveterate neatnik Trent Lott claimed to have invented the paper clip -- and other journalists picked up the story too.
The terrible irony in this exchange is that while Gore certainly didn't create the Internet, he was one of the first politicians to realize that those bearded, bespectacled researchers were busy crafting something that could, just maybe, become pretty important.
In January 1994, Gore gave a landmark speech at UCLA about the "information superhighway."
Many portions -- discussions of universal service, wiring classrooms to the Net, and antitrust actions -- are surprisingly relevant even today.
Furthermore, as Scott Rosenberg wrote in an October 5, 2000, Salon.com column, Gore had been correct in stating that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet":
But the defense of Gore currently underway feels to me less like a party-line effort than like the repayment of a debt of gratitude by Internet pioneers who feel that Gore is being unfairly smeared.
That's what you'll hear from Phillip Hallam-Baker, a former member of the CERN Web development team that created the basic structure of the World Wide Web. Hallam-Baker calls the campaign to tar Gore as a delusional Internet inventor "a calculated piece of political propaganda to deny Gore credit for what is probably his biggest achievement."
"In the early days of the Web," says Hallam-Baker, who was there, "he was a believer, not after the fact when our success was already established -- he gave us help when it counted. He got us the funding to set up at MIT after we got kicked out of CERN for being too successful. He also personally saw to it that the entire federal government set up Web sites. Before the White House site went online, he would show the prototype to each agency director who came into his office. At the end he would click on the link to their agency site. If it returned 'Not Found' the said director got a powerful message that he better have a Web site before he next saw the veep."
Similarly, as the Los Angeles Times reported on September 22, 2000 (accessed through the Nexis database), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said that "Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet":
The Bush campaign argues, as do others, that the Internet stemmed from a Pentagon computer communication network established in 1969. But Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a Republican who is no friend of the Gore campaign, said earlier this month, "Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet."
Discussing the Democratic debate later in the broadcast, Herron said that he "took a personal offense" when Clinton thanked a member of the U.S. military serving overseas for his "service to our country." Herron then falsely asserted, "This is the woman who banned military uniforms from certain parts of the White House."
HERRON: Actually one of the worst things that I heard last night and I, I felt so sorry. There was a young man who was currently serving in Iraq. He, he did a YouTube question, specifically posed it to Hillary. Asked her, you know, he goes, "I'm a proud serving member of the United States military. I'm serving overseas. The question is to Senator Hillary Clinton." He asked this question about, you know, these Arab states, these Muslim nations believe that women are second-class citizens. My biggest, I, I bristled. And I am a veteran. I, I did serve my country. I played high school football. No, I was, I was in the Army. I spent --
HEUER: So did I.
HERRON: You played high school football?
HEUER: I was the football.
HERRON: There you go. But she came back and said the words that almost made me turn it off. She said, "Thank you, John. And thank you for your service to our country." This is the woman who banned military uniforms from certain parts of the White House. She wanted, during Bill Clinton's reign, did not want to see military people -- did not want to have military people participate in her health care initiative, or the, the, the secret committee on health care referendum or whatever it was that they were trying to do. I sat there and took a personal offense to that.
However, as Colorado Media Matters pointed out, the allegation that Hillary Clinton imposed a ban on the wearing of military uniforms in the White House was reported as early as April 1, 1993, in a Washington Post article (accessed through Nexis) that referred to "[a] whole series of apocryphal anecdotes [that] have made the rounds and fed military disaffection" with the Clinton administration. With regard to "the one about Hillary Rodham Clinton's ban on uniforms in the White House," the Post reported that it "didn't happen."
Similarly, Newsweek reported in December 2005 that "[t]here are still soldiers who swear by the myth that she [Clinton] banned uniforms at the White House."