WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Adding NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to his media blitz, former Vice President Al Gore donned a wig and gave a Democratic rendition of Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott trying to recover from his now notorious remarks about Strom Thurmond's presidential run.
"Nice to be here, Chris," Gore/Lott said, wearing a wig resembling Lott's hair.
"Sen. Lott, high ranking members of both parties are calling on you to step down after your comments about Sen. Thurmond who was a segregationist. Should your bonehead behavior spell trouble for Republicans?," Hammond/Matthews asked.
Gore/Lott replied, blithely misstating Lott's position. "When I said our country wouldn't have all these problems if Strom Thurmond had been elected president it had nothing to do with segregation. I simply meant," he continued, "that things would have been better if Thurmond were president because he would have kept white people and black people separate."
As the audience laughed, Gore continued, "I just hate it when liberals take me out of context like that."
Replied Hammond/Matthews, "Why do I get the feeling you thought "Birth of a Nation" was the feelgood hit of the summer?"
The skit did not spare Democrats either, with a make-believe lead strategist for the Democratic National Committee making clear with comedic intensity her party holds positions identical to those of Republicans. "Republicans want to go to war with Iraq," she said. "We only support such a war."
Then Gore/Lott was given the opportunity to restate his earlier remarks, saying, "It has come to my attention that some of my comments about Strom Thurmond may have been construed as racially insensitive. Let me apologize." Then he went on to underline instead his supposed insensitivities.
"I meant no disrespect to any white people," Gore/Lott said. "I myself am a white man and some if not all of my best friends are white. Let me make this clear. As long as I am in my office we will leave no white person behind."
Replied Hammond/Matthews, "Senator, you're shedding a lot of light on the situation. Unfortunately the light is coming from a cross you just set afire."
The spokeswoman for the DNC then said, "The Democratic Party condemns Sen. Lott's comments. We believe they are deplorable and worthy of censure. Unless somehow it turns out that everyone's cool with what he said, in which case, so are we."
Even outside the "Hardball" skit, Lott, though absent in person, was an occasional butt of jokes in other parts of "Saturday Night Live" in which Gore did not play a character. In one instance, the mock news segment, a sentimental picture of a black child resting on Santa Claus' lap was shown, and after a moment the mock newscaster Jimmy Fallon said, "This would not have been possible had Strom Thurmond been elected president."
Lott, who Friday held a news conference to repudiate for the fourth time his remarks at a Thurmond 100th birthday party, was not immediately available to comment on the Gore performance. Lott said he was trying to "undo the hurt" that he generated by saying that Mississippi had voted for then segregationist Thurmond's presidential bid and that, "We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
Gore followed by a few weeks the SNL appearance of another politician of the opposite party, Republican Sen. John McCain.
Gore threw himself into his role of comedy host, opening the program with an embrace of wife Tipper so extended he had to be immobilized by high voltage Taser stun gun -- twice -- after which Tipper had to be revived from near asphyxiation.
A skit shot on the studio location of the weekly "West Wing" television drama had Gore sitting in the replicated Oval Office, asking the staff to pretend he was president and finally remaining in the chief executive's chair for hours after everyone else had left and the set was closed down.
Comedian and former SNL writer Al Franken reprised his "Stewart Smalley" role, showing a picture of a bearded, grossly overweight Gore bingeing on pizza after his election loss while wife Tipper sobbed.
Gore, after denying the presidential election loss had had a lasting impact on him, finally agreed to face the mirror and repeat the self-help mantra, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and, doggone, people like me." Afterward he said he did feel better, after all.
In a takeoff of "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire," Gore went through a process of choosing a running mate, finally bestowing his favor, with a rose, on Sen. Joe Lieberman and rejecting a tearful North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. Edwards was a good man, Gore said, but not the right man for someone who was getting over a long-term relationship with another southerner, his only reference to Bill Clinton.
The "Saturday Night Live" appearance was the latest in Gore's frenetic return to the public eye in a non-stop publicity tour for two books written on family themes. However book sales have been disappointing and his public opinion ratings do not yet appear to have benefited.
Last week Gore appeared on the Comedy Central cable channel's "The Daily Show," with Jon Stewart and earlier, on NBC's "Late Night, with Conan O'Brien." With now practiced self deprecatory humor, Gore has proven to be a smooth comedy performer, even when exaggerating his own often-noted tendency toward leaden delivery. In fact, he has proven he can mix his comedy and non-comedy personas with a fair amount of dexterity.
For NBC's "Today Show" host Matt Lauer, Gore delivered a serious response to a question about Lott -- while dressed in a red Santa Claus hat. Gore in recent days has also appeared on ABC's Sunday public affairs program, on CBS's David Letterman late-night show, on CNN's "Larry King Live," and on ABC with Barbara Walters.