(AP) Republican Fred Thompson said Sunday he was unaware of the criminal past of an adviser to his presidential campaign, but that he wouldn't "throw my friend under the bus" for decades-old indiscretions.
Thompson has flown around the country in a private jet borrowed from businessman Philip Martin, a co-chairman of Thompson's campaign who also has a criminal record for drug dealing, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Martin pleaded guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979, but the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. In 1983, he was charged with violating probation and multiple counts of bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, and was continued on probation, the newspaper said.
Thompson said he learned about Martin's past on Saturday, and understood that the crimes were committed when he was in his 20s and living in Florida, before Martin moved to Tennessee and the two became friends.
"Nobody's made any accusations that he's done anything illegal with regard to our campaign," said Thompson, questioned about it on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I know Phil is a good man. He is my friend. He is going to remain my friend. He didn't go to jail, he got probation, he's paid his debt to society and turned himself around and become a good, productive, successful citizen," Thompson said.
He said he would talk to Martin and figure out "what the right thing is," but that "I'm not going to throw my friend under the bus for something he did, you know, 25 years ago if he's OK now."
He left the door open just a bit by not giving a direct answer when asked whether Martin would continue with the campaign.
"On the other hand, I'm running for president, I've got, you know, to do the right thing, you know, and problems occur, and I'll just have to figure it out," Thompson added.
On another matter, Thompson said medical tests in September showed him to be "100 percent free and clear" of the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma he was diagnosed with about three years ago. Thompson, 65, revealed his condition last April, and said then that the cancer was in remission.
Asked whether he would release his health records, Thompson said he would do "whatever the common practice is."
Thompson said his visible weight loss was not health-related. He said he has been encouraged by his wife, Jeri, and others to watch his cholesterol and weight, and to exercise more. He said he was following a new eating plan at home, which he called the "if it tastes real good, don't eat it" diet.
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