Republican Jon Huntsman has not declared his candidacy yet, but his nascent presidential campaign-in-waiting felt some growing pain Sunday after mistakenly announcing the support of a prominent Republican fundraiser.
Two senior officials in the political operation told The Washington Post that FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith had agreed last week to support Huntsman if the former Utah governor ran for president. The Post reported the news in a story about Huntsman published on Sunday.
But at about noon Sunday, a FedEx executive speaking on behalf of Smith said that Smith had not signed up with Huntsman.
“Fred Smith has not committed any financial or other support to Gov. Huntsman. He is not supporting any particular candidate for the Presidency and does not plan to do so until later in the election process, if at all,” William Margaritis, a senior vice president at FedEx, said in a statement to The Post.
Huntsman, who recently returned as ambassador to China, called Smith last week to discuss a potential presidential campaign. Smith, a major GOP donor who is regarded as one of the biggest gets in the 2012 sweepstakes, had a history of working with Huntsman on China business issues.
“It was a very brief, innocuous call and obviously Fred took the call because of the former ambassador’s role in China,” Margaritis said. He added that Huntsman “did not request any support from Fred and Fred did not offer any support of any kind.”
The Huntsman campaign swiftly apologized for mischaracterizing the conversation.
“This error was the result of an overeager staffer,” Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller said. “We sincerely apologize to Mr. Smith for the mistake.”