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In reports on President Bush's decision to commute the sentence of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, several network news programs have quoted from or cited potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson's statement approving of Bush's decision without noting Thompson's connections to the Libby Legal Defense Trust. Thompson is a member of the trust's "Advisory Committee" and has reportedly held at least one fundraiser to help pay for Libby's legal fees.
On July 2, President Bush commuted the portion of Libby's sentence requiring him to serve 30 months in jail. In response, Thompson released this statement: "I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife and children. While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the President's decision." The release continued: "This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life." While the release noted that Thompson had "urged a pardon" for Libby, neither the release nor subsequent news reports mentioned his connection to the Libby Legal Defense Trust.
According to the trust's website, the organization was established "to help defray the legal defense costs for Lewis 'Scooter' Libby and his family against the recent legal charges brought against him." The site urges visitors to "join Scooter's many friends and colleagues in supporting the defense of this good man in clearing his good name." According to a June 25 Associated Press report, Thompson "helped run" the organization, which "set out to raise more than $5 million to help finance" Libby's legal defense. In addition, a July 3 Washington Post article reported that Thompson "held a fundraiser for Libby at his McLean [Virginia] home," according to fellow advisory committee member and former Ambassador Richard Carlson.
Reporting on the "blast of reaction" from presidential candidates during the July 3 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell asserted: "Fred Thompson, who had called for a pardon, respects the decision, calling Libby 'a good American who can get back to his life.' " Similarly, on the July 3 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC News correspondent David Kerley reported: "Many Republicans praised the move by the president. Rudy Giuliani calling it a good decision, one he believes in. Fred Thompson says it allows a good American to resume his life." And on the July 2 edition of ABC's Nightline, ABC News correspondent Chris Bury said: "Political reaction was swift. Republicans applauded. Rudy Giuliani called it 'a reasonable decision.' Fred Thompson: 'I'm very happy for Scooter Libby.' "
By contrast, a July 3 FoxNews.com article quoting Thompson's press release also noted his position with the defense trust: "Among the first to offer support was former Tennessee senator and possible White House hopeful Fred Thompson, who served on the advisory board of the legal defense fund for Libby, and urged Bush to pardon him. 'I am very happy for Scooter Libby,' Thompson said. 'I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife and children. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.'"
From the July 3 edition of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: A blast of reaction quickly from the campaign trail. Democrat Hillary Clinton, Monday night in Iowa:
CLINTON [video clip] And what we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law.
O'DONNELL: [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL], who said the administration puts itself above the law. [Sen.] Joe Biden [D-DE] used his website to urge supporters to telephone the White House in protest. But a different take from Republicans: Rudy Giuliani called the president's choice "correct" and Fred Thompson, who had called for a pardon, respects the decision, calling Libby "a good American who can get back to his life."
From the July 3 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
KERLEY: Many Republicans praised the move by the president. Rudy Giuliani calling it a good decision, one he believes in. Fred Thompson says it allows a good American to resume his life. The president reportedly made this decision very quickly yesterday after a federal appeals court ruled against Mr. Libby. And according to some of the staff members at the White House, he did not consult the Justice Department before making his decision.
From the July 2 edition of ABC's Nightline:
BURY: Political reaction was swift. Republicans applauded. Rudy Giuliani called it "a reasonable decision." Fred Thompson: "I'm very happy for Scooter Libby." Democrats blasted the president. From Hillary Clinton: "Another example that this administration simply considers itself above the law." Barack Obama: "This cements the legacy of an administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division."