USAT Reporter Caught in Distortion, Portrays Thompson as Unambitious

December 30th, 2007 9:39 AM

Erick at Red State reports that USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence distorted what she reported Saturday on a statement made by Fred Thompson to a Burlington, Iowa audience.

Here, per Erick, is how Thompson actually responded to the question, "Do you want to be President?" --

The first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this. I grew up in very modest circumstances. I left government and I and my family have made sacrifices to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I figured to be clean, you’ve got to cut everything off. I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show. I had a contract with ABC radio…and so forth. A man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing if he didn’t want to do it.

I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don’t do it. I want the people to have the best president they can have.

But here is what Lawrence posted:

Bill Theobald of Gannett News Service has been following Republican Fred Thompson around Iowa. In a dispatch today from Burlington, Bill quotes the former Tennessee senator as saying he doesn't like modern campaigning, isn't that interested in running for president and "will not be devastated" if he doesn't win.

This makes it appear as if Thompson is just going through the motions, doesn't it?

To her credit, Lawrence updated within an hour when Theobald called "to clarify that Thompson said he doesn't like the process of running for president but he does want to BE president. He told the Burlington audience he would not have given up his acting career and time with his family to run if that were not the case."

She then posted a link to a transcript of Thompson's remarks at the Corner at National Review, and Theobald's original story (which I could not find elsewhere). Theobald's report began thusly:

Fred Thompson said Saturday he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he "will not be devastated" if he doesn't win the election.

"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.

But what originally caused Lawrence to take that bolded sentence and turn it into what she did? Was it "easy" because of the "lazy, uninterested" meme Old Media has been developing on Thompson ever since (perhaps even before) he entered the race? Is it, as Erick seems to believe, that Lawrence is "feeling slighted by the campaign for not getting a one on one with FDT"?

Regardless, it was clearly an error, in an answer to a question about Thompson's ambition for the presidency, to skip over the full context of his answer.

Cross-posted at