An adviser to Republican Fred Thompson quit the presidential candidate’s campaign Monday, one day after a report about his decades-old criminal record for drug dealing.
“I have decided to resign my position as chair of ‘First Day Founders’ of ‘The Friends of Fred Thompson,’” Philip Martin said in a statement. “The focus of this campaign should be on Fred Thompson’s positions on the issues and his outstanding leadership ability, not on mistakes I made some 24 years ago. I deeply regret any embarrassment this has caused.”
The campaign issued the statement.
Thompson has flown around the country in a private jet borrowed from Martin, a businessman and co-chairman of Thompson’s campaign, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Martin pleaded guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979, but the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. In 1983, he was charged with violating probation and multiple counts of bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, and was continued on probation, the newspaper said.
Thompson said Sunday he was unaware of Martin’s criminal past, but that he wouldn’t “throw my friend under the bus” for decades-old indiscretions.
Thompson said he learned about Martin’s past on Saturday, and understood that the crimes were committed when he was in his 20s and living in Florida, before Martin moved to Tennessee and the two became friends.
“Nobody’s made any accusations that he’s done anything illegal with regard to our campaign,” said Thompson, questioned about it on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I know Phil is a good man. He is my friend. He is going to remain my friend. He didn’t go to jail, he got probation, he’s paid his debt to society and turned himself around and become a good, productive, successful citizen,” Thompson said.
He said he would talk to Martin and figure out “what the right thing is,” but that “I’m not going to throw my friend under the bus for something he did, you know, 25 years ago if he’s OK now.”