Stephanopoulos, Politico allowed Thompson's claims about his abortion record to go unchallengedNovember 19, 2007 5:57 PM EST ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER & KATHLEEN HENEHAN
During an interview with Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN) on the November 18 edition of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos did not challenge Thompson's assertions that "I think, number one, that Roe versus Wade should be overturned" and that "[a]ll I know is that I've had a pro-life voting record my entire career on every conceivable issue that came up before us for almost a decade." In a November 18 article discussing Thompson's appearance on This Week, the Politico reported that Thompson "trumpeted his own anti-abortion credentials after receiving the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee" and "bristled when host George Stephanopoulos passed along a quote from conservative activist Paul Weyrich, a [Mitt] Romney supporter, saying that Thompson 'bought their endorsement.' " But neither Stephanopoulos nor the Politico noted that Thompson has reportedly expressed support for abortion rights, as well as for Roe v. Wade. Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted (here, here, and here), the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on July 29, 1993, that Thompson said during an interview that he "supports the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion."
Further, as Media Matters noted, on June 10, The Tennessean reported that it had found documents in the Thompson archive indicating "he has previously taken positions that could be viewed as tolerating abortion," including "a handwritten clarification" on a 1996 Christian Coalition survey that said, "I do not believe abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people." The Tennessean posted Thompson's response to the Christian Coalition survey on its website. The "handwritten clarification" was near Thompson's checkmark "oppos[ing]" "legislation protecting the sanctity of human life except in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is endangered." The Tennessean also reported that "[i]n 1996, asked by the Memphis group FLARE (Family, Life, America, Responsible Education Under God Inc.) if human life begins at conception, Thompson circled 'N/A.' "
Additionally, as Media Matters repeatedly noted, the Los Angeles Times reported on July 7 that Thompson "accepted an assignment from a family-planning group [the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association] to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter." The same article quoted Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo as saying: "There's no documents to prove it, there's no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn't happen." According to a July 19 New York Times article, "Billing records show that former Senator Fred Thompson spent nearly 20 hours working as a lobbyist" for the family-planning association. The Times articled added that Thompson "spoke 22 times with Judith DeSarno, who was then president of the family planning group. In addition, he lobbied 'administration officials' for a total of 3.3 hours, the records show." The Times reported that Corallo said: "It is not unusual for a lawyer to give counsel at the request of colleagues, even when they personally disagree with the issue."
While the November 18 Politico article did not mention Thompson's reported lobbying for the family-planning association, on July 12, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen reported that Thompson "back[ed] off his flat denial that he once lobbied for an abortion-rights group." Allen added that "[t]he climb-down could be a significant embarrassment for a prospective candidate with a plain-spoken appeal and who has courted the GOP's anti-abortion base":
Fred Thompson is backing off his flat denial that he once lobbied for an abortion-rights group. He now says he doesn't remember it, but does not dispute evidence to the contrary.
The climb-down could be a significant embarrassment for a prospective candidate with a plain-spoken appeal and who has courted the GOP's anti-abortion base, although Thompson and his advisers had signaled for several days that it was coming.
From the November 18 Politico article:
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, competing for many of the same socially conservative Southern voters as [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee, dismissed his GOP primary rival as a "pro-life liberal" in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
"He's pro-life but he's liberal on everything else. Like taxes, illegal immigration enforcement," Thompson said.
For his part, Thompson trumpeted his own anti-abortion credentials after receiving the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee this week. He bristled when host George Stephanopoulos passed along a quote from conservative activist Paul Weyrich, a Romney supporter, saying that Thompson "bought their endorsement."
"Having one of Romney's people talking about somebody else buying something has got to be one of the most ironic things that happened," Thompson said. "I don't know if the Romney campaign has been asked to agree or disagree with Mr. Weyrich, but I assume they will say that is kind of a nutty thing to say. Nutty is the only word I can think of for that."
From the November 18 edition of ABC's This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think states should be free to set abortion policy?
THOMPSON: You know -- again, a very complex issue. I think, number one, that Roe versus Wade should be overturned. We need to remember what the status was before Roe versus Wade.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Goes back to the states.
THOMPSON: It goes back to the states. States now, just about all -- or the heavy majority of them have laws against abortion. They're just restricted by what --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Restricting; not eliminating.
THOMPSON: That's right. They're limited by what the Supreme Court has said about Roe versus Wade and the cases that have come. Most of the laws now outlaw the doctors who perform these things. They don't criminalize young girls, so, you know, we really need to examine what the state law is and what it would be, and it's hard to do hypotheticals in great detail.
All I know is that I've had a pro-life voting record my entire career on every conceivable issue that came up before us for almost a decade. I have said that nothing would pass my desk that would promote or finance or fund abortion without my veto, but you've got to be within the realm of whatever the law is at the time, and if you don't think the law is correct, the best thing that a president can do is try to get judges who will follow the law and follow the Constitution instead of making it up as they go along.