Dobson Disputes U.S. News Story

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James Dobson takes it back: Maybe Fred Thompson is a Christian after all.

Two days after the Focus on the Family founder called U.S. News & World Report correspondent Dan Gilgoff out of the blue to share his thoughts on the field of 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls, Focus on the Family has issued a statement claiming Dobson's comments were mischaracterized.

In Gilgoff's piece, Dobson said of former Sen. Fred Thompson, a possible presidential candidate, "I don't think he's a Christian." He also lavished praise on former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, whom he called the "brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today."

"His words weren't intended to represent either an endorsement of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich or a disparagement of former Sen. Fred Thompson. Dr. Dobson appreciates Sen. Thompson's solid, pro-family voting record and his position that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided," the statement reads.

Gilgoff, who has a new book out, The Jesus Machine, that examines the inner working of the religious right in American politics, called Focus on the Family for a follow-up conversation before submitting his original story, which has received hundreds of thousands of hits since it was published on USNews.com.

Spokesman Gary Schneeberger told Gilgoff that Dobson "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian-someone who talks openly about his faith."

"We use that word--Christian--to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," Schneeberger added.

U.S. News assistant managing editor Gordon Witkin tells us that he has spoken with Gilgoff and reviewed his reporting, and fully stands by the original story.

"We feel that Dan's piece was accurate and representative of the spirit of Dobson's comments," Witkin says.

--Chris Wilson