Al and Tipper Gore Separating After 40 Years of Marriage

Al Gore kisses his wife Tipper Gore after accepting the Presidential Nomination in August, 2000. Robert Nickelsberg / Liaison

Former vice president Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, have told friends they have decided to separate after 40 years of marriage, Politico reports. In an e-mail to friends, they wrote, "This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further."

That's a pretty surprising announcement—especially since the couple was best known for the obviously passionate but also awkwardly long kiss they shared at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Wags might point out that either one of the two might get tiresome after four decades. After all, since losing the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore has been best known for his noisy and sometimes strident lecturing about global warming. Tipper Gore, meanwhile, is famous for advocating for "parental advisory" stickers on recordings deemed profane and harangues about the evils of gangsta rap.

But they were known to be just as warm and flirtatious—which was awkward for others—on the trail. Tipper in particular had a penchant for TMI. Here's what NEWSWEEK's Evan Thomas wrote in 2000:

As he arrived at the podium, Gore got the viewers' attention with a passionate kiss. The simple act of kissing his wife may have done more to appeal to undecided women voters than all of Stanley Greenberg's polls and position papers. In a few seconds (it seemed more like a few minutes), Gore had somehow transformed himself from ponderous panderer to sex symbol. Top campaign aides adamantly insisted that The Kiss, at least its heat, was spontaneous. As rehearsed, Gore was supposed to stop to hug Tipper as he came onstage. But his ardor for the task was unexpected, or at least unscripted. Tipper, the aides pointed out, looked genuinely taken aback. The public display of affection was not all that surprising to staffers who traveled with Gore. The Gores are well known for being demonstrably affectionate with each other, sometimes to the discomfort of those around them. Tipper frequently refers to her husband as the 'hunk' and revealed to one interviewer that at home he sleeps in the nude. Aboard the campaign plane, aides would snigger when the Gores slipped into pajamas and closed the door to their private compartment.

Tipper would also send "lascivious" (her words) messages to Al, which annoyed staffers but tickled her husband.

Tipper's moods provoked some grumbling in the Gore camp. She upbraided staffers if her holding room was not stocked with Slim-Fast shakes. But no one denied that Gore needed her and used her as an escape from the constant coaching and handling that presidential candidates have to endure. Tipper, for her part, was not shy about advertising their means of diversion. To AP reporter Sandra Sobieraj, she related this mildly steamy e-mail exchange between her husband, who at the time was rehearsing in Florida for the first debate, and herself, back at the vice president's mansion in Washington. Gore was typing on his BlackBerry messenger while he stood at the podium:

Al: I love you. How are you doing? I'm in the middle of debate prep. Paul [Begala, his sparring partner] is talking. They're wondering what I'm doing.
Tipper: Oh, I know what I'd like to be doing with you right now. [Tipper writes something she describes as "a little lascivious."]

Al: I'm losing my concentration now. We have to stop.

Still, there may have been signs of trouble. Sometime this spring, the Gores bought an $8.875 million mansion on a sprawling lot in Montecito, a Southern California playground for the rich. A house far away from the Gores' Nashville base could be the groundwork for a separation.

If you're into that sort of thing, there's some good snark on Twitter.