July 21st, 2007
02:44 PM ET
12 years ago

Thompson's conservative credentials questioned

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Dixon Benshoof, Des Moines Iowa

    Fred Thompson would be an excellent candidate for the Republicans. He is an actor and that is what it would take to convince resonable people that republican control would be good for this country, again. I think his part in the movie "In the Line of Fire" would be a good portrayal of how he would be as our president.

    July 21, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. nca, san diego, ca

    Fred, Fred, go away, come again another day...

    July 21, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    It's not unusual to forget what you did in a small number of billables over 15 years ago, but he's got to be lying about not recalling that he _did_ work for such a client. No cred, Fred.

    July 21, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. Edward: San Rafael, CA


    Imagine, a Senator who "cannot recollect."

    I am certain that's NOT what we need from our next President.

    What's with these guys?

    July 21, 2007 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  5. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    It floors me that the ultra conservative Christians are pushing this guy, between his wild days and public lack of morals, his 25 years younger wife who wears the risque stuff to the party, etc.

    He'll get ripped apart the very first debate he's in, he can't shoot from the hip, only memorize a script.

    July 22, 2007 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  6. Anonymous

    His conservative credentials are questioned because he is NOT a conservative! He is a Neo-Con! Reagan would want to kick this guy in the nuts if he were alive! The most conservative guy in the race is Ron Paul and people are too blind to see it!

    July 22, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  7. Michael, Amherst, MA

    How about the concept that a candidate simply states something like, "Yes, I did work on that at the time, and doing so was consistent with my job, and perhaps even my beliefs at the time. I have come to believe otherwise in the ensuing time, and my position now is..."

    "I cannot recollect" indeed sounds like the BS that it clearly is. It seems to be practiced by politicians over the full range of the political spectrum, and it reflects an apparent trope in politics that image is more important than truth. The myth seems to get deflated since more and more citizens are seeing right through the image, and not liking what lies behind it.

    July 22, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. Andrew S. Evansville, IN

    if the best the GOP can do is a bit actor from Law and Order whose been out of the senate for x years, has a rep for laziness, says he wont campaign as hard as others, has a rep for chasing skirt, a wife half his age, major public flip-flopping on abortion, a vote on his senate record to not impeach Clinton, this whole working for the family planning thing, and the fact that out of the 90 bills he sponsored in the senate only 4 ever got passed....unless the Dems candidate is caught on tape doing lines of blow off a toilet seat with bin Laden i can't see the GOP winning this time. Better to throw this one (a la '76) and try again with people the base actually wants.

    July 22, 2007 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    I'm a Tennessean and a person that tends to vote Republican (but not always), but I can't support Fred as the nominee because I can't figure out what he's really done for our state (or for the nation) in all those years of public service.

    If image and chasisma were all that counted, this guy would lead the pack. But I'm hopeful that the electorate will be able to see through the b.s. and rhetoric and come up with a candidate of substance. That goes for both parties.

    p.s. I've voted for Phil Bredesen (D) for governor 3 times and wish someone like him would run for president. Competency and straight talk wins my vote every time.

    July 22, 2007 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. cliff jones

    I can't believe that this guy's conservative principles are questioned. He is so far right and traditional that he forgot he had a left and progressive.

    July 22, 2007 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  11. Sharon Jenson Atonville, Ca

    Wow, it sounds as if he {Thompson} would fit right in with the Bush Administration:

    Align with the religious, (just those who are brainwashed Christians believing that an embryo is a human being) just to collect votes you cannot ever hope to get from an educated, up-to-date, concerned American.

    Instead, we believe those who reside in Iraq ARE actually human beings, and should not be killed for what McCain, Bush, and the rest of the greedy politicians refer to as our "vested interest" in Iraq; {aka: OIL}

    Let's let this man waste his time, and the money of those blind, yet faithful ones who actually believe any greedy Republican would make Roe -v- Wade a priority once in the white house, when there are far too many ways to profit from war once elected.

    Well Thompson, Hitler once said, "It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge."

    Hitler also said, "What good fortune for governments that the people do not think."

    Wow - go WITH faith, and pray that Americans have no new knowledge since 2000. We'll see where that gets you in 2008. -Sharon Jenson

    July 22, 2007 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. Earl Umfleet Sumner, Ill

    Thompson is just another lying republican trying to convince the christians that he is their man for the white house. O woe is me

    July 22, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |

    I wish he would make up his mind about whether or not he is in the race – this is getting pathetic.

    Personally, I don't see his appeal at all. Didn't he spend most of his life as a lobbyist?

    July 22, 2007 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |