Former VP Al Gore Rescued 270 Katrina Victims

Former Vice President Al Gore personally funded charter flights that rescued 270 Katrina victims from New Orleans last week.

Gore airlifts victims from New Orleans (CNN)

Al Gore helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president’s son. Gore criticized the Bush administration’s slow response to Katrina in a speech Friday in San Francisco, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew on September 3 and 4.

However, Dr. Anderson Spickard, who is Gore’s personal physician and accompanied him on the flights, said: “Gore told me he wanted to do this because like all of us he wanted to seize the opportunity to do what one guy can do, given the assets that he has.”

An account of the flights was posted this week on a Democratic Party Web page. It was written by Greg Simon, president of the Washington-based activist group FasterCures. Simon, who helped put together the mission, also declined an interview.

On September 1, three days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Simon learned that Dr. David Kline, a neurosurgeon who operated on Gore’s son, Albert, after a life-threatening auto accident in 1989, was trying to get in touch with Gore. Kline was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. “The situation was dire and becoming worse by the minute — food and water running out, no power, 4 feet of water surrounding the hospital and … corpses outside,” Simon wrote.

Gore responded immediately, telephoning Kline and agreeing to underwrite the $50,000 each for the two flights, although Larry Flax, founder of California Pizza Kitchens, later pledged to pay for one of them. “None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews,” Simon wrote of the American Airlines flights. “One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them.” He also recruited two doctors, Spickard and Gore’s cousin, retired Col. Dar LaFon, a specialist in internal medicine who once ran the military hospital in Baghdad.

Most critically, Gore worked to cut through government red tape, personally calling Gov. Phil Bredesen to get Tennessee’s support and U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta to secure landing rights in New Orleans.

Damned nice of him. Sure, he can afford $100,000 without batting an eye. But so can a lot of people who didn’t do anything like this.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    You gotta give him credit for his good work -I not so certain about his humility.

    He is a rare liberal that chooses to do social good with HIS OWN money.

  2. bullwinkle says:

    That’s good to hear, but I’m dreading the moment we hear that Ted Kennedy is road-tripping down in his Oldsmobile to help out.

  3. Billy says:

    Entires like this demonstrate that this blog isn’t afraid to point out the truth, no matter which side it “benefits.” Nice post.

    And DL, if his humility is in question, why did Gore go out of his way to AVOID publicity for his charity? To date he’s refused all interviews and has shied away from media attention.

  4. leelu says:

    Good for him. It gives me a new-found respect.

  5. I believe that Al Gore deserves nothing but plaudits for his efforts. Questions about his motivation are off-base unless he does something to merit them. But I do wonder if it is best that Norman Mineta and Governor Bredesen are spending their time answering phone calls for connected callers rather than doing their job for everyone under the respective charges. It isn’t hard to imagine all relief efforts being slowed down if all the connected people start calling looking for favors.

  6. paladin says:

    I had similar thoughts last night when I saw a few minutes of the Stars for Katrina (or whatever) telethon. Some of the richest people on the planet were performing and urging others to give money. But if everyone who appeared in the telethon just gave 5% of their current earnings and offered shelter to the homeless in their gazillion-bedroom McMansions, it would go a long in solving the refugee/evacuee problem.The entertainment elite sneer and deride GWB (Bush hates blacks!), but some of the richest people in this country are black (Oprah and Michael Jordan spring to mind). What are they doing to help “their people” excepting urging the rest of us give money? It would be interesting to find out.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Mountain Girl,

    I think the buck stops anywhere but on the President’s desk. Recently they have been focused on censoring images of dead bodies from the disaster.

  8. anjin-san says:

    BTW, how about a round of applause for Texas for showing us all how it is done 🙂

  9. Kathy K says:

    Good for him. As to Norman Mineta and Governor Bredesen – he probably has their home numbers…

  10. marybeth says:

    Dr. Kline was fortunate that he knew someone who had the resources and the connections to make this happen.

  11. Smantix says:

    Oh, he’s got the connections. He had a corporate officer of Fastercures’ public relations office post that information on Talking Points Memo’s website. A political stunt for a good cause. What could be better? I can’t wait till the private photos are released for his next campaign.

  12. Anjin-san, just curious, but do you ever have an expresed thought that doesn’t explicitly condemn Prsident Bush? No? I didn’t think so. Thanks for your contribution.

  13. anjin-san says:


    Was my post praising Texas, and by extension, its Republican Governor somehow too complicated for you?

    As for condemning Bush, well there is just so damn much he has to answer for…

  14. ICallMasICM says:

    God bless Al Gore and everyone else who has made a contribution to helping the victims.

  15. Ray says:

    Yeah, what are Oprah and Michael Jordan doing to help?