- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Have you heard the one about Farmer Gore and his 10,000 chickens?
No, it's not another gibe from the late-night comedians, who have riffed for the last week on the vice president's tendency to embellish, exaggerate and even make up stories.
This latest tale has leapt off the Internet courtesy of muckraker Matt Drudge with the help of the Republican National Committee's now smoking fax machine and has buzzed across town as the latest in a series of gaffes by Mr. Gore.
While the story is old from comments then-Rep. Al Gore made in 1979 to farmers during a House hearing on how chemical contamination killed thousands of their birds the tale has gained new life as the presidential race winds down.
"I can certainly sympathize with the loss that these business people have suffered," Mr. Gore said at the time. "I have raised chickens myself 10,000 at one time, 5,000 in each of two houses, and I know what it would be like to have to destroy that many chickens for a business."
While the Gore campaign refused to talk turkey "We don't know if we're going to put something out on that," said a Gore staffer who gave his name only as Adam a search of Mr. Gore's official Web site did indeed turn up a reference to 10,000 chickens in a eulogy for his father, Albert Gore Sr.
"At the time of his death, he was still serving as the senior director on the board of Occidental Petroleum. But just as with farming, he had always been in business. He owned a feed mill… . He ran a commercial egg-production house with 10,000 chickens."
The new-old tale dovetails with newly released memos from Mr. Gore's 1988 presidential campaign. In those, his staff warned him about embellishing his "farmer" status.
"Your staff has never exaggerated your role as farmer," Arlie Schardt, Mr. Gore's campaign press secretary, wrote in a Feb. 15, 1988, memo. "The campaign bio we distribute everywhere says only 'He owns a small livestock farm near Carthage where he and his family reside when Congress is not in session.'
"No one except you can really establish how much you've worked as a farmer, or how much you can be described as a farmer in terms of income or time spent. You did say near the end of the Iowa race (in the flap over your not taking part in the farm debate a few weeks ago) something like 'I'm the only farmer in this race,' " Mr. Schardt wrote.
"But I suggest that you say that such phrases are a way of establishing your familiarity with farming, your knowledge of farming. In that same vein, you've had fun having your picture taken holding a steer at a state farm."
In conclusion, the press secretary said, "Your main pitfall is exaggeration. Be careful not to overstate your accomplishments."
Longtime Gore friend Steve Armistead, who grew up with Mr. Gore and now works as a county road superintendent in Tennessee, said the vice president did not exaggerate.
"As long as I can remember, he was at the farm every summer and on holidays" from the time he was 11 or 12 until he went off to Harvard, Mr. Armistead said. Mr. Gore spent the rest of the year living in a Washington hotel.
"He was involved in everything his family was involved in. He was part of the family business like with politics," he said.
As for the 10,000 chickens, Mr. Gore said he "raised," Mr. Armistead said:
"I don't know about the 10,000 number. There were 10,000 at another farm, up the road, not on the farm he grew up on. I don't remember how much of a role he had at the chicken house, but his father owned two, and each one, as I remember, holds about 4,000 or 5,000 chickens.
"It was down the road a bit, so I don't know how much time he spent there," he said.
Mark Pfeifle, deputy communication director for the Republican National Committee, said the latest Gore claim is small by itself, but part of a "long history of exaggeration and fabrication."
"If it were just this one, it would be small, but it's a troubling pattern. They add up. Eventually, he's going to get plucked," he said.
The late-night comedians have, of course, been having a field day with the Gore gaffes.
Said David Letterman: "Al Gore is very excited for round number two in the debates. He's already prepared five brand new made-up stories, so he's ready to go. Got five big fibs he's dying to tell."
Said Jay Leno: "Actually, old Al got himself in a little trouble the other night. During the debate he claimed he went to Texas. Remember, he said he went to Texas to visit fire victims? Turned out, not exactly true, he didn't visit any fire victims.
"He went to a fund-raiser at a trial lawyer's house instead. But today Gore called it an honest mistake. Boy, that's a politician for you, isn't it? Finally he does one honest thing and it was a mistake."

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