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Transcript of CNN Romney must cut ties

September 13, 2007

SANCHEZ: Meanwhile, another story we’re following here, a surprising turn on the presidential race on the Republican side, anyway. Look at the new CNN/Public Opinion Research poll. Giuliani and “Law & Order” star Fred Thompson are basically tied. That’s a huge difference since before Thompson entered the race last week. Thompson jumped seven percent. Look who comes in a distant third and fourth. John McCain and then Mitt Romney.

Now it looks like Thompson has some people so scared they’re turning to mudslinging at this point. Who? Well, we’ll get into that. It’s the modern way of mudslinging, though, because we’re talking about the internet. In fact, check out this Web page. This is from phoneyfred.org. That’s what it’s called. It’s a site devoted to attacking Thompson’s personal life and his politics. The site has been taken down, by the way, but it was so nasty, in fact, Romney’s campaign is telling anyone who will listen, we, the Romney camp, had nothing to do with this.

That’s not what they say on the other side, except the guy who created the Web site is in business with one of Romney’s top advisers in South Carolina. Let’s talk politics now. Frank Donatelli, he is a former adviser to President Reagan.

Thanks so much, Frank, for joining us. Let’s try to break this down for the viewer. Because I think it gets a little confusing. The guy who apparently put this information out is a guy who worked as a consultant for somebody who worked as a consultant for Romney. His name is Wesley Donohue (ph). This firm was paid thousands and thousands of dollars. That’s the background. From the Romney camp, by the way. Is that enough for us to go on to assume that they may have had some connection to Romney in doing something like this or do these things just happen as rogue acts?

FRANK DONATELLI, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT REAGAN: Rick, it may be true that the high command of Romney campaign didn’t know anything about this, but if indeed someone who is on the payroll of one of the consultants to the campaign put this up, I think that there is some culpability on the part of the Romney campaign. And my advice would be to cut ties immediately because it’s not going to get any better. This is going to continue as a story.

SANCHEZ: Cut ties all together. That’s interesting you would say that. As a matter of fact, will, let’s go to the big wall. Sometimes you have to look at these things. We can’t take you to the Internet and take you through it. So we kind of broke it down for you this way. That’s what it looks like. That’s the banner of what this Web site looks like. Phoney Fred. Then it has different segments, across the top, Hollywood Fred, Washington Fred, Pimp Fred, McCain Fred.

Come on back. Look down here. We pulled this out of the actual Web site, flip-flop Fred, moron Fred, trial lawyer Fred. Frank, this is vicious stuff, isn’t it?

DONATELLI: Yeah. It really is. It strikes me on the one hand that it’s really lame for all of the reasons that you just outlined. On the other hand, it’s sophisticated in the sense the content is pretty well developed. There’s a lot of votes in there, a lot of information about the background and so forth and so on. But I think what is most objectionable about this is no one takes credit for it. There’s no identification of who is responsible. If you want to launch an attack on an opponent, I think that’s justifiable, but the first rule is you should take the heat for that. You should stand behind the charges.

And these kinds of anonymous charges, really, I think, are not what politics should be about.

SANCHEZ: This is not one of the cases where we don’t know who did it or we think one candidate did it to set up the other guy. For example, maybe Thompson’s guys did it to say, oh my God, we’re the victims here. The fact that we know who this person is at least makes it look like there’s some culpability that the Romney camp needs to deal with, right, whether they did it on purpose or not.

DONATELLI: No, no. I agree with that. I think there’s culpability here. And I think it’s up to the campaign to deal with it quickly. It’s not going to get any better.

SANCHEZ: Frank Donatelli, good stuff. We appreciate your information on this. Thank you.

DONATELLI: Thanks very much.

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PFC

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