Fighting for Fred 

The ladies swoon over Tennessee's movie-star senator

The ladies swoon over Tennessee's movie-star senator

Last week was a rough one for Sen. Fred Thompson, who became an item in the gossip columns again. The New York Post reported that Thompson’s 33-year-old girlfriend was complaining that CNN host and Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson was lusting after her 57-year-old Tennessee beau.

”A catfight could be brewing between two Capitol Hill hotties over the attentions of Sen. Fred (the Tennessee Stud) Thompson,“ the Post’s ”Page Six“ column began last week. The piece went on to quote Jeri Kehn, former communications director for Florida GOP Sen. Connie Mack, who said that she and Thompson have been ”dating seriously.“

No problem there. Thompson, a divorced bachelor of long standing, is free to date anyone he wants, and it’s nobody’s business who he goes out with. But Kehn apparently broke the trust most would understand goes without saying, blabbing to the Post that her two-year on-again, off-again relationship with Thompson was tainted by just one thing: all the other ladies who want him.

Thompson, whose charm and magnetism are undeniable yet hard to explain given his rough appearance—he has an uncanny resemblence to the Klingon Star Trek character, Worf—is apparently one of Washington’s most pursued bachelors.

”They just won’t leave him alone,“ Kehn said. ”I can’t get up to get a cocktail at a party without coming back and finding some girl sitting in my chair.“

As if that weren’t bad enough, Kehn then claimed Carlson, the 54-year-old co-host of CNN’s ”Inside Politics,“ relentlessly chases Thompson. ”She calls his apartment all the time,“ Kehn claimed. ”I mean, what is the deal with these women? Don’t they have any pride? It’s the joke all over Washington that Margaret has this huge crush on him. And Fred is clearly not interested.“

The Post piece went on to quote an unidentified source who said Kehn apparently doesn’t understand that the friendly Thompson dates a lot of people. ”I’ve talked to Fred about this woman, and he doesn’t know what to do, because if you’re a senator, you can’t go around bad-mouthing people.“

The same person told the Post that Carlson is dating someone, and that she and Thompson had once dated for a brief period but are now just buddies.

As for Thompson’s reaction to the whole thing, he couldn’t have been classier. He had no comment for the tabloid New York Post. But he did tell the The Washington Post later that while he typically avoids responding to such things, ”As it relates to my friend Margaret Carlson, there’s not a word of truth to them.“ What’s more, he said, ”I should be so lucky.“

Hamming it up

When Sen. Bill Frist’s name recently surfaced as a possible vice presidential selection for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the former heart surgeon couldn’t have been much more immodest.

”My name is on a number of the short lists...that are floated around,“ he told reporters at the time. ”And I think that is in large part because of my focus in health care, my focus in education, and probably in part because of my State of the Union response.“ Frist was one of two Republicans selected to respond to President Clinton’s State of the Union address Jan. 27.

”There have been a number [of people] that have come up and asked if that offer was made, would I be interested. My response is really that I’m focusing 100 percent on legislation here in Washington and running for my own reelection,“ Frist said.

The only problem with Frist’s comments was that, at that time, Bush didn’t have the foggiest idea who he might pick as his running mate, and Frist must have known that. Frist’s press secretary was saying that the senator’s only contact with the Bush campaign had been to talk about health issues. That’s all Frist should have said.

Given that he is apparently so comfortable tooting his own horn, it wasn’t surprising then that Frist was looking for any and every opportunity to snag a little coverage for running the Country Music Marathon last weekend.

An aide called the Scene to say that Frist would like to ”speak out“ about the health benefits of marathon running and wondered whether this newspaper was interested in talking to him about it. It wasn’t.

But Frist managed to talk up a Tennessean reporter who ran the race, and he made it into her first-person piece that ran the following day.

Perhaps Frist’s colleague, Thompson, would be a more logical choice for Bush’s short list. He is, after all, one of the few nationally known politicians who can come out looking good even when a bombshell more than 20 years his junior talks out of school about their romantic relationship.

To reach Liz, call her at 244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail liz@nashvillescene.com.

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