Because he’s running an outsider presidential campaign, it makes sense that Fred Thompson is focusing on local media in key states like Iowa rather than on the big boys inside the Beltway. But why is the Republican candidate snubbing Fox News Channel, which is so influential in the GOP primaries?
Political insiders are asking that question after the former senator’s decision to shove aside the respected Jim Mills, who left his plum post as the network’s Capitol Hill producer this summer to become Thompson’s press spokesman.
The switch had been a big gamble for Mills. He gave up a hefty paycheck at the number-one cable news network for the unpredictable world of presidential politics. And after years of staying nonpartisan despite Fox’s conservative reputation, he picked sides in a big way and hurt his chances of returning to a media post.
So political and media insiders were stunned when Mills was ousted from the campaign just weeks after he started. The move was so controversial within the Thompson camp that top adviser Mark Corallo abruptly left as well, in part out of loyalty to Mills, whom he had recruited.
The firing also outraged Mills’s former colleagues at Fox, where the onetime producer is still very popular.
Why did Thompson do it? The chatter is that the candidate’s wife, Jeri, who already has a reputation for being hands-on, blamed Mills for a wave of bad press. The negative stories accurately reflected Thompson’s sluggish start, but the campaign ax fell on the spokesman anyway.
This article originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Washingtonian Magazine.