TODAY   |  June 02, 2010

Al and Tipper Gore call it quits

In a surprise announcement, the Gores say they are separating after four decades of marriage, four children and three grandchildren. NBC’s Norah O’Donnell reports.

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>> your time this morning.

>>> now to that surprising announcement from former vice president al gore and his wife, tipper. after four decades of marriage they have decided to separate. nbc's norah o'donnell is in washington with more on the story. norah , good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, meredith. this was a huge surprise. everyone thought it was the perfect marriage. but the gores say they came to this through a mutual decision, and friends say that they grew apart and there was no affair, it's just that their lives have gotten more and more separated. who could ever forget that kiss? the gores locking lips in a long embrace on center stage at the 2000 democratic convention .

>> it was a way in which people could relate to al gore , not as the robotic figure they were seeing on the campaign trail, but as a real human being with real passion.

>> reporter: but after four decades of marriage, and four children, and three grandchildren, the gores announced they are calling it quits. a shock to friends.

>> we never want to hear news like that for a friend and somebody you care about. but i think that they've made very clear that they're good friends, that this is a decision they've come to together.

>> reporter: the gores just last october paid nearly $9 million for a mansion in montecito, california. down the street from oprah winfrey 's estate. their 40th wedding anniversary was just two weeks ago, and their separation marks the saddened to a storybook love affair .

>> we met at a party after the prom and, wow. it was just that sudden.

>> reporter: friends called it the perfect union. she was just as fun as he was formal.

>> he at one point told me that their marriage was the classic case of opposites attracting.

>> reporter: but their marriage was tested. tipper admitted she suffered from depression after her son, albert iii , was almost killed by a car when he was just 6 years old.

>> it did scare me, yes. you hate that you have to depend on medication.

>> reporter: there were other trials, like go losing the bitterly disputed 2000 presidential election. but after that tough time, gore went on to win an oscar and a nobel prize . plus he banked millions as a businessman and as a board member for apple and as an advisor to google.

>> i do think in recent years in particular she was very, very much in the background.

>> reporter: i talked to some of their friends who say they were really stunned about this. if you were going to bet on a political marriage that would fail, the gores would be the last one you would pick. married 40 years. now they're asking for privacy and saying that they will have no further comment.

>> norah o'donnell, thank you very much.

>>> "people" magazine's washington correspondent is