Documents show Thompson lobbied for an abortion rights group.
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CNN) - Fred Thompson often plays up his social conservative credentials, telling audiences that he believes “in the sanctity of human life.” And when he officially jumps into the race for the White House, which we believe will be sometime around Labor Day, he’ll be counting on the support of values voters.
But billing records show that in 1991 and 1992, the former Tennessee Republican spent some 20 hours lobbying for a group trying to ease federal laws that restricted abortion counseling. The records detailing Thompson’s work for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association were first reported Thursday by the New York Times and also obtained by CNN.
Earlier this month, in response to a Los Angeles Times story, a Thompson spokesman said the former senator had no recollection of doing anything to aid the abortion rights group. Last week, another spokesman reasserted this comment but then added to the statement.
“It is not unusual for a lawyer, when asked by a colleague, to provide counsel or assistance when asked, including matters on which they personally disagree," Thompson spokesman Robert Traynham said.
But non-partisan political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said the most recent news about Thompson's past work could hurt him with social conservatives.
“I think the controversy could be a significant problem," Rothenberg said. "Part of Thompson’s appeal is he is a Ronald Reagan conservative and there is a contradiction between that ideal and the reality of his work on the issue of abortion."
And Thompson’s already feeling the heat. A video posting on YouTube shows Thompson answering a question in a 1994 Senate debate about supporting or opposing abortions on demand. “I do not believe that the federal government ought to be involved in that process,” said Thompson in his response.
But Thompson’s voting record during his eight years in the Senate was consistently anti-abortion. And it appears that so far at least, many social conservatives may be willing to give Thompson a pass on this current controversy.
“The conservative wing of the Republican Party really wants to be able to support somebody and because of that they may be able to move past this,” said Rothenberg, who adds that “we won’t know for a number of weeks, possibly a number of months, whether it could get a little bit rocky for Thompson.”
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser