PHILADELPHIA — Vice President Al Gore stepped up his criticism Wednesday of violence in entertainment media, but said it is only one of the problems contributing to crime in society.
In a speech to students, teachers and residents at a North Philadelphia public school, the vice president called for self-restraint by the entertainment industry to reduce "the excessive incidents of violence being showered on the heads of our young people, day after day, night after night."
He added "it is not fair to make the entertainment industry a scapegoat when we have a flood of guns in our society. American entertainment is shown all over the world . . . [but] in places where they don't have the flood of guns . . . they don't have this problem with violence."
Citing a common statistic about exposure to media violence by an average American child, Gore said: "If you were going to design a scheme to cause trouble in society, you couldn't do much better than to sit every child down and show him 20,000 murders by the time he graduates from high school."
The vice president also turned to his political base Wednesday, working to energize organized labor at a union convention here.
Meanwhile, his Republican opponent in the presidential race, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, responded to an e-mail Gore dispatched a day earlier in which the vice president challenged Bush to restrict the influence of independent issue advertising funded by now-unlimited contributions, and to begin biweekly debates.
Bush said that before debates could be scheduled, Gore should "clear the air on some serious charges" stemming from past fund-raising irregularities.
"I hope you will encourage the White House and the Department of Justice to release all records and photographs relating to the investigation of fund-raising abuses by you and your administration," Bush wrote. "Your own record does not inspire confidence," he added.
"Thank you for your e-mail," he concluded, still ribbing Gore: "This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention."
Gore was chided last spring for overstating his role in creating the Internet. In his original comment, he actually talked about his role in Congress paving the way for measures that helped establish the communications web.
At an AFL-CIO convention, Gore sought to stir up the delegates, where he said one in four voters is a union member. "You can make all the difference; you already have this year," he said.
Gore got a reaction when he noted that Bush will be in Philadelphia this summer to attend the Republican Party's national convention on July 31.
"We're waiting for him," an audience member shouted.
"I just want to make sure," Gore continued, "this is as close as he gets to the White House."
Warming up his audience to the campaign ahead, the vice president said: "In order to win, we have got to understand the other side is going to throw everything they've got, plus the kitchen sink. They're manning the barricades; they're trying to funnel unprecedented amounts of money into the campaign. They're going to stop at nothing."
Pennsylvania has historically been a battleground in the presidential election. Acknowledging this role, Gore said "the Keystone State is always a key to victory."
Later, speaking at a fund-raising reception that his spokesman, Christopher Lehane, said would bring $75,000 to $100,000 to Gore's campaign treasury, the vice president said: "I love this city, I really love this city."
Then he added, "It's true I express my affection for whatever city in an electoral-rich state I happen to be located in."
Among the union members, Gore won repeated standing ovations as he attacked the labor record of the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, which he said sought to "starve" the National Labor Relations Board and thus weaken enforcement of labor-protection laws.
"The time has come to make changes by beefing up the NLRB," the vice president said.