BOSTON Al Gore yesterday chided Jim Lehrer for not asking questions important to blacks in Tuesday’s presidential debate and predicted that broadcaster Bernard Shaw would raise the issues in tonight’s vice-presidential debate because Mr. Shaw, unlike Mr. Lehrer, is black.
Mr. Gore said he would appoint another black justice to the Supreme Court, although not one like Clarence Thomas, the court’s only judge of that race.
The vice president did not object when his black radio host joked that because Mr. Thomas is a conservative he is not really black.
The radio host, Tom Joyner, was praised by the vice president during a primary debate last winter as an exemplar of “African-American journalism.” Mr. Joyner scolded Mr. Gore for not discussing “black issues” in Tuesday’s debate.
“You didn’t talk about health care as it pertains to black people not being able to afford it,” Mr. Joyner said. “You didn’t talk about breast cancer among black people.
“You didn’t talk about AIDS research to Africa. I didn’t hear anything about affirmative action. We didn’t hear about racial profiling. We didn’t hear about reparations.”
Mr. Gore replied: “I think one of the reasons for that is there was a single questioner.” He was referring to Mr. Lehrer, the PBS anchor who began Tuesday’s debate by announcing: “The questions and the subjects were chosen by me alone.”
The vice president said: “In many respects, I thought Jim Lehrer did a great job. But I will agree with you that the questions did not include a lot of the subjects that African-Americans would have wanted to see added to the discussion. And if they don’t come up in the next debate, I will personally bring them up and fit them in, whether they ask the questions or not.”
Mr. Joyner noted that Mr. Bush had brought up subjects not asked by Mr. Lehrer.
“If the question didn’t fit what he wanted to say, he just threw it in anyway,” Mr. Joyner said.
Bernard Shaw, the Cable News Network (CNN) anchor, would ask questions pertinent to blacks, the vice president said. “He’s doing the VP debate, and I’m certain that he will bring up most of these subjects. And I’ll bring it up next week. We’re debating again next Wednesday in North Carolina, and I’ll make sure that racial profiling and several of the other issues you mentioned get brought up.”
Mr. Shaw could not be reached for comment yesterday. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lehrer said the anchor would not comment on Mr. Gore’s remarks.
Mr. Gore said that whoever he nominates to the Supreme Court would be “more like Thurgood Marshall and less like Clarence Thomas.”
“Will we get another black Supreme Court justice?” Mr. Joyner pressed.
“Perhaps,” Mr. Gore replied. “I hope so.”
“Did I say ‘another’?” Mr. Joyner interjected. “I’m sorry. ‘A’ black Supreme Court justice.”
“Well,” the vice president began, as if to disagree. But he fell silent as Mr. Joyner erupted in laughter over his joke about Mr. Thomas’ race.
Last week, Mr. Gore said Americans should speak up to rebuke slighting references to a person’s race. “This may sound corny to you, but I really think it’s important,” the vice president said at a fund-raiser in Florida. “If you have a circle of friends that has people who you know put somebody down humorously, along one of those lines of differences, have the courage to speak up in an appropriate way. Say, ‘Now look, I don’t go for that talk,’ ” Mr. Gore counseled.
“It’s not that hard. And I’ve seen it time and again in my life and you have too.”
Mr. Gore, however, has remained silent in the presence of other jokes about religion. At a Beverly Hills fund-raiser last month, he and Mr. Lieberman sat by as “Seinfeld” executive producer Larry David mocked Mr. Bush’s Christian faith.
“Like Bush, I too found Christ in my 40s,” said Mr. David. “He came into my room one night, and I said: ‘What, no call? You just pop in?’ ”
Mr. Lieberman, who has made religion a major campaign issue, made no reference to the joke when he followed Mr. David to the podium to praise the Hollywood stars and executives in attendance. After the incident was reported he said he found the joke offensive. Mr. Gore, pressed by a reporter, said he didn’t remember the joke.
“Whatever the setting is these days, you are at risk of hearing or seeing something that goes over your personal line,” said the vice president, a Southern Baptist who often says his behavior is motivated by his asking himself the question, “What would Jesus do?”
“So jumping up every time that happens would be kind of a constant undertaking.”
Earlier this year, Mr. Gore criticized Mr. Bush for failing to speak out against the anti-Catholic teachings at Bob Jones University when the Texas governor delivered a speech there.