Thompson Says Lymphoma Is in Remission

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson appeared on Fox News Wednesday morning and revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer more than 2 years ago.
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson appeared on Fox News Wednesday morning and revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer more than 2 years ago. (Fox News Channel)
By Dan Balz and David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Former senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee, who is actively weighing a campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, revealed yesterday that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma 2 1/2 years ago but said the cancer is in remission.

Thompson, who is perhaps best known as the tough prosecutor on NBC's "Law & Order," said that he has had no ill effects from the cancer and that it should have no impact on his life expectancy. His doctor said Thompson had been treated with medication but, because the cancer is in remission, is no longer receiving treatment.

"I have had no illness from it, or even any symptoms," Thompson, 64, said in a posting on the Web site Redstate. "My life expectancy should not be affected. I am in remission, and it is very treatable with drugs if treatment is needed in the future -- and with no debilitating side effects."

The revelation, first made during an interview on Fox News Channel, heightened speculation in Republican circles that Thompson is moving closer to entering the 2008 presidential campaign. GOP strategists said Thompson's cancer disclosure appeared designed to test public reaction to his condition before he makes a decision about running.

"It's a clear signal that Fred Thompson is serious about getting into this race," said a Republican strategist familiar with Thompson's deliberations who would speak candidly only if granted anonymity.

"He believes that he has to be honest with the American people and that they have to have all the relevant information in order to make a decision," the strategist added. "He wants to see how people respond to this as he gets closer to making the decision about whether to get into the race."

"He understands there's a need to put out any health issues up front," said Scott Reed, who was the campaign manager for Robert J. Dole's 1996 presidential bid. "It's a smart preemptive strike. I think he's taking a good, serious look at the race. He recognizes a void with conservatives and he's probably going through a checklist of preparations."

Thompson surprised many when he expressed his interest in running just a month ago, and he has been encouraged by the support he has received from other Republicans. Conservatives in particular have expressed unhappiness with the field of candidates, and some see in Thompson qualities they want in a nominee, both in his positions on issues and in his leadership profile.

Many recent polls show him in third place, behind former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) but ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who raised the most money of any Republican in the first quarter.

A Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg News poll completed Monday showed him moving past McCain into second place. In that survey, Giuliani led with 29 percent among Republicans, with Thompson at 15 percent and McCain at 12 percent.

Thompson's health announcement drew words of encouragement from two leading Tennessee politicians, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who twice sought the Republican presidential nomination, and former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who explored a 2008 candidacy but decided against it.

"To Fred's credit, he's been absolutely forthcoming about his health, and it doesn't look like a problem to me," Alexander said in a statement issued by his office.

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