Thompson on NY-23 race: We're not 'deaf, dumb and blind'

Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday fired back at Republicans who have criticized him for backing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over his own party's more moderate-leaning challenger.

Although Thompson classified his party's internal dispute as an "honest disagreement in the family," he did charge some Republicans -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in particular -- for endorsing Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava purely because she has an "'R' by [her] name."

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"Newt said that our support for Hoffman was a 'purge,' was 'misguided,' was—we were applying a litmus test that said if you're not 100 percent with us than you're not with us at all," Thompson said on his radio show on Tuesday. "And that Scozzafava was more in step with her district and therefore we shouldn't substitute our judgment for the party elders of the district."

"You know, just because we're Republicans doesn't mean that we're deaf, dumb, and blind," Thompson added, criticizing Scozzafava's record and conservative credentials.

Thompson's rebuke on Tuesday is just the latest chapter in the ongoing saga to fill now-Army Secretary John McHugh's open House seat. The race has taken on an especially national vibe, thanks in part to inner-party squabbling among Republicans over which candidate to support.

The Club for Growth, the Concerned Women of America, former Gov. Sarah Palin, (R-Alaska) evangelical leader Gary Bauer, Thompson and a host of other conservative GOP members have lined up behind Hoffman. A handful of Republican party leaders, the National Rifle Association and Gingrich have instead rallied for Scozzafava, who is now slumping in polls. A number of top GOP lawmakers, however, have peculiarly stayed silent in the race.

But Gingrich, in particular, has emerged as a key defender of Scozzafava's record -- an endorsement that has earned him considerable flak from the Republican Party's most right-leaning members, Thompson included.

“The special election for the 23rd Congressional District is an important test leading up to the mid-term 2010 elections,” Gingrich said of Scozzafava's candidacy in a statement to supporters earlier this month, as reported by the The Post-Standard. “Our best chance to put responsible and principled leaders in Washington starts here, with Dede Scozzafava.”