Fred Thompson is not an official candidate yet, but he’s obviously interested in ascending from the Manhattan D.A.’s office on “Law & Order” to the Oval Office in 2009. In May, the five-year-veteran of the show, asked NBC to release him from his contract.
If he runs, NBC will have to pull the plug on episodes featuring Thompson due to federal regulations. The FCC’s equal time regulations allow candidates equal time on public airwaves. Cable channels do not use public airwaves, so stations like TNT, which airs “Law & Order” reruns, are exempt.
Unlike predecessors Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) and Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest) on the New York-centric show, Thompson’s D.A. Arthur Branch is—surprise, surprise—a Republican conservative.
NBC announced that it will not schedule any future episodes Thompson appears in, beyond those already scheduled, if he runs.
And according to the Times, TNT may voluntarily take Thompson out of circulation if he runs, “to avoid complaints.”
In his three-decade-long screen acting career, Thompson, a Tennessee Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 1994-2002, has played politicians, lawyers and high ranking soldiers, and with his Southern drawl and authoritarian image, the small segment of Americans who base their vote on vitals like charisma, oratory skills and wardrobe could be swayed.
Before he was a U.S. Senator, Thompson was a lobbyist, and minority counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee. Scott Armstrong, who was an investigator for Democrats on the committee has accused him as being “a mole for the [Nixon] White House” because Thompson alerted Nixon’s lawyer that the committee knew the administration had a taping system, as soon as he found out from another member of the committee.
In recently released transcripts from White House tapes, Nixon calls Thompson “dumb as hell, but friendly.”