Everybody knows that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. But like many things that everyone knows, it's not actually true.
So where did it come from? In a March 9, 1999 interview on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked the candidate to describe what distinguished him from his Democratic challenger, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. Here is how the exchange went:
Gore: 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.
It's clumsy wording, to be sure. But it's clear from looking at Gore's whole statement that he never claimed to have invented the Internet, in the sense of writing code or laying fiber-optic cables. He meant only to take credit for the contributions that he made as a member of Congress, contributions that have been lauded by people like Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, who wrote the code that serves as the foundation for the Internet.
Who is to blame for coming up with the "Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet" meme? This guy.
Two days after Gore appeared on CNN, libertarian writer Declan McCullagh posted a story on Wired News mocking him for claiming to be the "father of the Internet." McCullagh never used the word "invented," but it took only a few days before it mutated into its current form, helping to cement the public perception of Gore as a serial exaggerator.