Patterico's Pontifications


Key Witness Remembered Thompson Re-Enacting A Scene From a Movie of His — That He May Never Have Made (UPDATE: Movie Identified)

Filed under: 2008 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 5:18 pm

This is just fascinating.

That L.A. Times hit piece about Fred Thompson’s alleged lobbying for an abortion rights group had a passage that originally read as follows:

But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.

At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson re-enacted a cowboy death scene from one of his movies. She also remembered him telling her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for one of Thompson’s sons and his wife.

Jim Geraghty says that the bolded language describes an event that could not have happened. Garaghty cites to Thompson’s Internet Movie Database entry, which he says shows that Thompson hadn’t made any cowboy movies as of 1991. I don’t know if Geraghty is right about this, but nothing jumps out at me as a movie that would have contained a cowboy death scene. (If you learn something to the contrary, you know where to find me.)

Stranger still, the language I have bolded — language that (if Geraghty is right) undercuts the credibility of the witness telling the story — is now gone from the story.


The language was originally there in the first version printed on the Web. The passage was quoted, among other places, at Hot Air, Obsidian Wings, lefty blog Corrente, and many other places around the Web. And if you plug the missing sentence into Google News, you’ll even pull up links to the L.A. Times story — although when you click through, you’ll see that the sentence is gone.

It appears that the version quoted by bloggers was an early version that was later edited before making it into the print edition. A friend has confirmed for me that the passage was not included in the print edition of the paper — at least in the edition he received. This means that the removal of the passage may not be nefarious — it’s possible that it was simply an editing decision made for innocent reasons, like space issues.

But if it’s true that Thompson had never made a cowboy movie before 1991, then the L.A. Times owes readers a duty to re-examine the story in light of that fact — and to report that the witness was talking about a movie that never existed. Even if the story wasn’t reported in the print edition, it’s information tending to undercut the credibility of a key witness against Thompson. The paper should look into it and report it.

I’ll write the Readers’ Representative and ask if that’s going to happen.

By the way, I complained the other day that the editors had failed to put up the document purporting to be the minutes of a meeting discussing Thompson’s hiring. Well, whether it’s in response to my complaint or not (I assume not), they have finally posted the document. Document experts, the ball’s in your court!

UPDATE: James Joyner says:

I would note, however, that, at the time of the incident in question, Thompson had appeared in a minor role in a movie called “White Sands.” While not technically a Western, it’s certainly reasonable for it to have been construed as such from casual conversation. I haven’t seen it, so I have no clue whether Thompson’s character was shot in it.

We should all keep in mind that it hasn’t been proven that Thompson wasn’t in such a movie. Similarly, hilzoy says in comments:

One of our commenters pointed out that he was in Thunderheart, which was released in April 1992 (so presumably filming in 1991), and could easily be misremembered as a Western. Whether Thompson’s character dies in it, whether this is the right movie, etc., I have no idea.


UPDATE x2: Some commenters are disputing the notion that these movies fit the anecdote told by Ms. Sarno.

UPDATE x3: The L.A. Times has identified the movie in question: “Keep the Change.” Details here. Preliminarily, it sounds plausible that this is the right movie.

16 Responses to “Key Witness Remembered Thompson Re-Enacting A Scene From a Movie of His — That He May Never Have Made (UPDATE: Movie Identified)”

  1. Man, do you hate latimes.

    Semanticleo (4741c2)

  2. I thought I was very restrained in this post.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  3. That document is going to be hard to validate since there is no way to check it other than supporting material. How about checks, invoices and other material ? This is an alibi, not proof.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  4. You were restrained, Patterico, far beyond politeness. Semanticleo’s Razor just isn’t Occam’s.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  5. Available on Amazon:

    More Than A Cowboy: The Life and Times of Fred Thomson and Silver King (1988)

    Judith DeSarno owns silent film star Fred Thomsen’s entire filmography.

    steve (ff538f)

  6. steve,

    If that’s a joke, it’s too subtle for me.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  7. One of our commenters pointed out that he was in Thunderheart, which was released in April 1992 (so presumably filming in 1991), and could easily be misremembered as a Western. Whether Thompson’s character dies in it, whether this is the right movie, etc., I have no idea.

    hilzoy (c5c2e0)

  8. Man, do you hate Patterico.

    Pablo (99243e)

  9. Man, do you hate people who love to hate it that Patterico hates the L.A. Times.

    Xrlq (c70197)

  10. OK, I vaguely remember Thunderheart. Val Kilmer as a Native American FBI Agent. It was a murder mystery – I don’t think it could have been mistaken for a Western at all from anyone who actually saw it, as it was set in the modern day.

    I don’t actually remember FDT in it, though I guess IMDB doesn’t lie. I should stick it in my netflix queue though, to verify.

    Skip (e63117)

  11. the only on-screen death in thunderheart was the indian gunned down running from a car. the girl protagonist died but her death wasnt shown just the dead body. i remember white sands but not fred being in it. and i refuse to watch a mickey rourke movie even to defend fred.

    chas (3385c2)

  12. […] Patterico says the print edition of the paper didn’t contain the line about the cowboy movie, although the web version certainly […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » “Facts” disappearing without a trace from LAT bombshell on Fred’s abortion lobbying; Update: Sununu rips ABC reporter over Fred lobbying story (d4224a)

  13. FDT shows up in the first 5-10 minutes for a Cameo in his old standby mode of a governmental supervisor, in this case, he is an FBI head… in DC… in his office. The furthest you get from Western I think. The only dust is that falling in Val Kilmer’s head. Closest it gets to western is maybe a cattle train painting on a wall?

    Anyways, he is on screen for like… 3-5 minutes and that is it. Done, Finito. Does not show up again and character is not mentioned at all for the rest of the flick.

    BTW, its not a bad flick. Good little mystery flick, even if it goes the route of evil government and white men.

    Schmoe (20ce31)

  14. In all fairness, it doesn’t say he re-enacted his own character’s death.

    Assuming it was Thunderheart, he could have said +
    something like “I saw the stuntman doing that scene, the first take he flopped around like a fish and it was hilarious — they had to re-shoot. It looked like” [fish-flopping imitation]

    Obviously, I wasn’t there and I don’t know. Just pointing out that it doesn’t specify it was HIS death scene.

    Sam (c71bb1)

  15. Hmmm… Seems like a lot of talk over nothing. For all we know it was a movie Fred Thompson was in that never got released, or cut halfway in. I understand that its important to discredit somebody if it appears they are making stuff up to discredit another person. All I know is there isn’t enough to go on here. It could have been a made for tv movie, a movie that never got released, a pilot tv show, an audition, etc… Is Thompson even running yet?

    G (722480)

  16. Why can’t the group show canceled checks payable to the law firm that FDT worked for? All they have are minutes of a meeting? Pretty thin evidence.

    Meatsss (c1c22b)

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