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Campaign Notebook

Romney adviser tied to anti-Thompson site

WASHINGTON - A top adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to be behind the launch of a new website attacking GOP presidential rival Fred Thompson during his first week on the trail.

The site, PhoneyFred.org, painted an unflattering picture of Thompson, dubbing the former TV star and senator: Fancy Fred, Five O'clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred, and Trial Lawyer Fred. Shortly after a Washington Post reporter made inquiries about the site to the Romney campaign, it was taken down.

Before it vanished, the front page of the website featured a picture of Thompson depicted in a frilly outfit more befitting a Gilbert and Sullivan production than a presidential candidate.

Under the heading "Playboy Fred," the site asked the provocative question: "Once a Pro-Choice Skirt Chaser, Now Standard Bearer of the Religious Right?"

Nowhere on the site was any indication of who was responsible for it. But a series of inquiries led to "Under the Power Lines," the website of the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, Romney's lead consultant in South Carolina. Tompkins did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Late yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Thompson called on Romney to fire Tompkins.

"There is no room in our party for this kind of smut. As the top executive of his own campaign, Governor Romney should take full responsibility for this type of high-tech gutter politics and issue an immediate apology," said Thompson spokesman Todd Harris. "If this is true, Governor Romney should exercise some of his much-touted executive acumen and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage."

A spokesman for Romney's campaign said he would look into questions about the anti-Thompson site. "Our campaign is focused on the issues and ideas that are of paramount concern to voters," said spokesman Kevin Madden. "The website we are focused on is MittRomney.com."

Tension over ceremony

The 2008 presidential campaign is riling today’s commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as front-runners for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations take differing roles at ceremonies in New York.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani will be in the limelight when he reads a memorial text during the ceremony. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York will have no speaking role when she attends the ceremony.

The arrangements were made by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may have presidential ambitions of his own. Bloomberg has limited the speaking roles at the ceremony to Giuliani and former governor George Pataki — leaders at the time of the 2001 attacks — and to himself and the current governor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer.

Giuliani’s prominent role has drawn criticism from some families of Sept. 11 victims who say his speaking assignment injects politics into a solemn memorial.

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Thompson on bin Laden

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson said yesterday that while Osama bin Laden needs to be caught and killed, the terrorist mastermind would get the due process of law.

In his first campaign trip to South Carolina, the actor, lawyer, and former Tennessee senator answered questions about his recent statements about the man considered responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

Last week, a new video with bin Laden surfaced, the first in three years. On Friday, Thompson told reporters in Iowa that bin Laden is ‘‘more symbolism than anything else’’ — remarks that drew criticism from some Democratic rivals. Later Friday, Thompson adopted a tougher line, saying bin Laden ‘‘ought to be caught and killed.’’

Yesterday, Thompson said he wasn’t suggesting that bin Laden’s death would happen immediately after his capture.

‘‘No, no, no, we’ve got due process to go through’’ depending on the circumstances, he said.

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