In a recent radio interview , newscaster Amy Goodman challenged Ralph Nader for saying in 2000 that it didn't matter whether Gore or Bush won.
Nader denied saying that, which immediately raised our interest here at PolitiFact. We could've sworn we remembered Nader repeatedly saying there was no difference between the two. In fact, we thought it was a central theme of his 2000 campaign.
Here's the full exchange, from the June 18 broadcast of Democracy Now!:
Goodman: "Ralph Nader, you said in 2000 it doesn't really matter whether Gore or Bush is president. Do you feel that way today?"
Nader: "I didn't say that. I said the similarities between Bush and Gore tower over the dwindling real differences that they're willing to argue over."
We scoured hundreds of news reports from 2000 looking for an instance of Nader saying Gore and Bush were the same, or that it didn't matter which was elected, or any equivalent phrase.
We didn't find those words, but we did find many instances of supporters, opponents, reporters and commentators characterizing Nader's position in those terms.
For example, in a New York Times opinion piece in August, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote: "While I admire Mr. Nader's high-minded ideals, his suggestion that there is no difference between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush is irresponsible."
Nader took exception to this paraphrase of his position, as he did from time to time throughout the campaign.
"I have indicated that there are 'few major differences' between the two parties," Nader responded in a letter to the Times, "not that there is 'no difference between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush,' as Mr. Kennedy wrote."
There's a reason Kennedy and so many other observers were left with this impression. Again and again throughout the campaign, Nader implied that he thought Bush and Gore equally objectionable. "It doesn't matter who is in the White House, Gore or Bush, for the vast majority of government departments and agencies," Nader said in a news conference in September 2000.
"The only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door," he told supporters in California a month later.
"It's a Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum vote," Nader said in Philadelphia four days before the election, repeating a favorite refrain of his. "Both parties are selling our government to big business paymasters. ...That's a pretty serious similarity."
Nader also failed to challenge Sam Donaldson on ABC's This Week when Donaldson said, "You don't think it matters. You've said it doesn't matter to you who is the president of the United States, Bush or Gore."
Nader replied, "Because it's the permanent corporate government that's running the show here ... you can see they're morphing more and more on more and more issues into one corporate party."
A few other news reports quoted Nader saying outright that it didn't matter whether Gore and Bush got elected, but these reports didn't provide enough context for us to feel comfortable pinning the sentiment on Nader. For example, here's a line from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece on Oct. 26, 2000: "In comments as hostile to Gore as to Bush, Nader said it 'doesn't matter' which of them wins because both parties are mired in 'decay.' "
Maybe he said that, but without a fuller quote, we have to allow for the possibility that he stopped just short of saying it, as he did in most of his campaign appearances.
So no, Nader never explicitly said "it doesn't really matter whether Gore or Bush is president." But his talk of "Republicrats," "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum," and "one corporate party" left many people — friend, foe and impartial observer alike — with the impression that that's what he believed. We find Nadar's statement that he "never said" it to be Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.