James Dobson (Photo: Rocky Mountain News)
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson claims U.S. News and World Report mischaracterized remarks reported by the magazine as disparaging of Sen. Fred Thompson and the potential presidential candidate’s Christian faith.
The online story appeared this week with the title “Dobson Offers Insight on 2008 Republican Hopefuls: Focus on the Family Founder Snubs Thompson, Praises Gingrich.”
Reporter Dan Gilgoff wrote Dobson “appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.”
Gilgoff quoted Dobson saying of Thompson, “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for, [but] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”
In the U.S. News story, Dobson added, according to Gilgoff, that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.
In a statement issued today, Focus on the Family said Dobson did not mean to disparage Thompson.
“His words weren’t intended to represent either an endorsement of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich or a disparagement of former Sen. Fred Thompson,” the statement said.
“Dr. Dobson appreciates Sen. Thompson’s solid, pro-family voting record and his position that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.”
Dobson, according to Focus on the Family, was “attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.”
Dobson told Gilgoff he had never met Thompson and wasn’t certain that his understanding of the former senator’s religious convictions was accurate.
“Unfortunately, these qualifiers weren’t reported by Mr. Gilgoff,” the group’s statement said. “We were, however, pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer.”
Gilgoff quoted Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, who took issue with Dobson’s reported characterization.
“Thompson is indeed a Christian,” Corallo said. “He was baptized into the Church of Christ.”
The former senator from Tennessee has had a successful career in TV and feature films, starring in the series “Law & Order.”
Focus on the Family also clarified that Dobson did not excuse Gingrich’s “past moral failures,” including an affair that ended his second marriage. Gingrich spoke to Dobson of his family life in an interview on the group’s daily radio show.
“The former speaker was offered a chance to address the subject openly and honestly, and he did so, stating, ‘I have turned to God and have gotten on my knees … and sought God’s forgiveness,’” the Focus on the Family statement said. “Dr. Dobson firmly believes that Scripture teaches there is redemption available through Christ for those who confess their sins – were it not so, we’d all be in a world of trouble. Of course, only the Lord knows the condition of individual hearts.”
The statement cautioned “friends of our ministry not to believe what they read about Dr. Dobson in the secular media today.”
“Never in the 30-year history of this ministry has there been more misreporting and outright distortion of his beliefs and teachings,” the group said. “It is apparent that those who represent a liberal worldview seek to marginalize him and confuse our friends.”
While Dobson does not endorse candidates in his role with Focus on the Family, he told a talk radio host in January he would not back Arizona Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination.
“Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances,” he said.
As WND reported, talk of a possible Thompson presidential candidacy has excited the Republican base, and several movements to draft him are under way.
The best-known was formed by two prominent members of the Tennessee congressional delegation – Reps. Zach Wamp and John J. Duncan, Jr. – who will serve as co-chairmen of the “Draft Fred Thompson 2008″ committee.
Thompson’s political consultant wife, Jeri Kehn, is reportedly urging the former senator to announce for the GOP nomination this summer.