Opinion: Fred Thompson discusses his lobbying past (sort of)


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Fred Thompson is elaborating, after a fashion, on the question of whether he lobbied to relax a controversial anti-abortion policy. He penned a lengthy column that clearly was inspired by the matter, an article that explores the nature of a lawyer’s work and is punctuated with historical references --- including the fact that Founding Father John Adams represented British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre. Thompson also provided a verbal response this week in an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity.

The column, posted on the blog, has a big windup, and the comment to Hannity was evasive. But veteran political reporter Tom Edsall, blogging on the Huffington Post, cuts to the chase: ‘Fred Thompson has effectively admitted in an interview with Sean Hannity that he did lobby in behalf of a pro-abortion rights group.’ That’s how we read the Thompson column, as well.

Those of you following this story know that when The Times’ Michael Finnegan broke the news last week that a substantial evidence indicated that in 1991 Thompson, then a lawyer based in Washington, was hired by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. to help it fight a ban on abortion counseling by clinics receiving federal money, a spokesman for the former Tennessee senator issued a denial.


‘Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period,’ Mark Corallo said in an e-mail to Finnegan.

Thompson was far less unequivocal when, on the day Finnegan’s story appeared, the Washington Post tracked him down and asked him about it as he campaigned in Florida for his as-yet-unannounced presidential campaign. ‘I’d just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing,’ he said.

And Edsall notes that Corallo, in response to an inquiry Wednesday, has backed away from his flat denial. Thompson ‘said he has no recollection of doing any work (for the family planning group) and does not recall lobbying anyone’ on the abortion issue.

Once Thompson got to the Senate in the mid-1990s, he compiled a solidly anti-abortion voting record. And when he finally officially launches his bid for the Republican presicential nomination, he’s counting on strong support from social conservatives less-than-thrilled with their current choices.

Given that, we understand the sensitive nerve touched by the story on Thompson’s lobbying past. Still, as he gears up to run for the White House, he and his staff might want to have further discussions on how well prepared they are for a barrage of tough and prying questions on a raft on subjects. Issuing initial answers that the candidate and his aides then back away from generally is not a good way to go.

-- Don Frederick