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Monday, June 04, 2007

Fred Thompson and Jeri Kehn: Trophy wife, trophy husband?

Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn At 40, Fred Thompson's attractive, blonde wife of five years, Jeri Kehn, is considerably younger than he is. And while Fred is the TV and movie star of the pair, he looks his 64 years, while in the photos I've seen of her, she often looks younger than hers.

This has given rise to mumblings ranging from mildly gossipy (Dr. Stephen Taylor of Poliblog), to simply crude (Josh Marshall), to incredibly sexist and tacky (Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan, who also manages to trash-talk the other GOP candidates' wives), to vile (Jim Henley, who predicts that she would "[end] up suppressing the rank & file evangelical vote and getting married vaginal-Americans to vote Dem in droves"). [Update: But see Mr. Henley's later post, and the comments to it also, for a less trenchant take.]

The Nashville Post, however, in a report entitled "The 'Inner Fred,'" lists her first among "political operatives who have been there for him on previous campaigns, are with him now, or can be expected to play a significant role in the coming months" (and that's consistent with other reports which have suggested that she's been a major, and very encouraging, factor in his deliberations over whether to run):

Fred Thompson married Jeri Kehn on June 29, 2002, in Naperville, Ill. She was an attorney [update: this statement is wrong; she's not an attorney — Beldar] and political media consultant at the once-powerful Washington firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson and Hand.

Before that firm merged with DLA Piper in 2002, some of her "co-workers" were former presidential contender and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the late Secretary of State Lloyd Bentsen, and Elliot Abrams, assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, to name just a few.

Prior to her tenure at Verner Liipfert, she worked for the U. S. Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee.

She and her husband have a four-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son.

Laura Bush will, quite frankly, be a tough act for anybody to follow as First Lady, and I don't know enough yet about Ms. Kehn or Mrs. Thompson to even know, for example, which of those forms of address she'd prefer. But as with Thompson's reaction to Michael Moore's criticism of reports that the former senator has a fondness for Cuban cigars — which was to release a fabulous internet video response that features Thompson chewing a cigar — I very much like Thompson's very emphatic reaction to the possibility of a controversy over his wife's looks, as reported by U.S. News & World Report (emphasis mine):

Get ready for the comparisons between Nancy Reagan and likely GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri. "America fell in love with the Reagans and they'll do it with Fred and Jeri," says a pal. Like Nancy, Jeri is her husband's adoring, hand-holding top adviser — and even his driver. She's also elegant, like Nancy. So much so that in preparation for Thompson's early July entry into the race, Jeri suggested to friends that she might "frump it up," to which Fred barked a "Hell no."

John Kerry and Fred Thompson both notoriously dated around as senators. Kerry, for example, dated Morgan Fairchild, Michelle Phillips, Catherine Oxenberg, and Dana Delany, but ultimately chose to marry another senator's widow who, as it happened, had finished raising a family, is older than Kerry, is ultra-rich, and is perhaps a bit, umm, idiosyncratic. Thompson chose to marry someone who wanted to raise a family with him, and who is apparently both smart and politically savy, but who's definitely younger and not at all frumpy. Who's to dispute that true love and deep compatibility drove both decisions, rather than the most superficial attributes of age, beauty, or wealth? But even if age, beauty, or wealth were among the mix of factors that went into those decisions, then who's to gainsay that either?

Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn   Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn

The New York Post's story about them, headlined "Babe Wife, 40, Boosts GOPER, 64," reports that after his divorce in 1985, Thompson "was one of Washington's most in-demand bachelors," and that "Kehn scored a coup in convincing Thompson, who had won the nickname 'The Tennessee Stud' during his D.C. bachelorhood, to meet her at the altar." If that's so, wouldn't Thompson be a "trophy husband"?

Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn   Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn

Wouldn't that make them, in fact, a "trophy couple"?


UPDATE (Tue Jun 5 @ 12:55am): I adhere to my position, even though it puts me in agreement with Andrew Sullivan and, far less worrisomely to me, Megan McArdle. See also Betsy's Page, Michelle Malkin, Captain Ed, Target Rich Environment, and Allah at Hot Air, who focus on the tasteless "pole-dancer" remark quoted by Josh Marshall (see link in my original post above) from former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show.

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 7:15am): Add Jim Geraghty to the list of those peeved at Joe Scarborough.

Libby Spencer, who posted about this yesterday on Newshoggers, would now have us believe she didn't mean to use "trophy wife" as "necessarily a derisive term." (Yeah. Right.) But she thinks the marriage "does raise some questions about his character" — and explains in comments: "I think [the new] wife isn't so much the issue as his leaving his first wife after 30 years so he could go out and get laid by every groupie in town before he finally settled down with a the [sic] sweet young thang. Says a lot about his character, or lack thereof." After these lovely, balanced, and empathetic comments, backed by, umm, no supporting evidence, she whines: "It's a sad statement on the adversarial nature of our society, that I can't ask a legitimate question [i.e., how this will play with the "ordinary voter"] without being accused of attacking the woman."

Ms. Spencer: Most of us can tell the difference between asking a question and making an argument using loaded terms. And it's called "sexism" when you draw irrebuttable, conclusive inferences about why a particular man marries a particular woman, or vice versa, based on nothing more than their respective sexes, ages, and appearances: You're reducing her to a pair of breasts, a birth certificate, a marriage license, and a set of lame clichés. (It's a sexist view of men, too, but whatever.) Oppose her, or them both, for their politics if you want. But, with due respect, these sorts of comments make you look unattractive, and I don't mean physically. Your blog's motto, apparently, is "Blogging to the highest common demoninator." If so, you have an awfully bleak opinion of humanity.

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 8:25am): I'd read this before, but finally found a link (on dKos of all places): "At the Capitol Hill Club session ... [d]uring the discussion about his past, Thompson said he had recently spoken to his ex-wife, Sarah, and said she would campaign for him. He also spoke lovingly about his 'partner for life,' his wife, Jeri, and their two small children."

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 8:50am): I've read posts to the effect of, "Oh, she's a Britney Spears clone!" Mm-kay, I guess so. If Britney were 40 instead of 26. And had been married only once, but it was for five years, after dating the guy for six years before that. And hadn't shaved her head and gotten those tattoos. And had already had a career as a political media analyst with a top Washington law firm. And was a good friend of Mary Matalin. And had lots, lots better fashion sense.

Fred Thompson and wife Jeri Kehn

Other than that, they're just about twins, yeah.

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 9:30am): Ms. Spencer and I have a dialog going on in her blog's comments, and as always, I appreciate anyone from the opposite side of the political aisle who will carry on a civil debate with me, on my bandwidth or theirs. Have I misjudged her? Did she not intend that which I've attributed to her, and was she instead just asking, hypothetically, whether some bigoted person — not her! — might think Sen. Thompson dropped his first wife (who, as I read on someone else's post, he had "impregnated as a teenager!" gasp!) for the sole purpose of "go[ing] out and get[ting] laid by every groupie in town before he finally settled down with a[/]the sweet young thang"? Golly, if Ms. Spencer wants to disavow that accusation, she might want to actually expressly attribute it to some hypothetical other person, and join me in pointing out that it would be unjustifiable bigotry. We can probably agree, then, that there are indeed bigots and racists and sexists out there who will vote against Fred just because of Jeri's looks or who will vote against Hillary just because she lacks a Y-chromosome. But as always, gentle reader, decide for yourself; and feel free to comment here, or there, but always in civil tones please.

Meanwhile: Scarborough claims to have been merely secondarily suggestive rather than directly insulting, or something like that. Lame, but probably true. Note to Joe: "Doing the pole" has one fairly well-known meaning in gay street lingo, a different one in strip clubs, and the meaning you claim to have given it (increasingly commonly used exercise equipment?) basically nowhere except in your head. Be more careful.

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 1:35pm): I think my dialog with Ms. Spencer in her comments has concluded, and in a way that disappoints me. She writes in her latest comments, replying to mine:

As for Fred's promiscuity, judging from the various comments I've seen, it's legendary. And I don't think it's so untoward to speculate on what the timeline reveals about his character. I may not know much about insults, but I do know about cheating husbands and other womanizers and he fits the classic pattern.

If and when, his ex-wife comes out publicly to say he's a really swell guy who never cheated on her and starts campaigning for him — I'm happy to eat my words and apologize for suggesting otherwise.

So we now have a new standard from the likes of Ms. Spencer: Anyone who divorces, dates, and remarries — or maybe this is only Republican men? I'm not quite sure — is presumptively an adulterer from the time of his marriage and a liar then and ever after. (I thought she might disassociate herself from her earlier accusations, but she instead has chosen to double down on them.) I am quite confident that engaging in such presumptions, without evidence and regardless of evidence, is a form of bigotry, and as I said on Ms. Spencer's blog, I hope it will cause an appropriate backlash. Ms. Spencer has a new post up at Newshoggers, too, but I don't think that it adds anything, and I doubt that she and I have anything much more to discuss.

UPDATE (Tues Jun 5 @ 4:05pm): Mary Katherine Ham is inclined to let Scarborough pretty much off the hook. I don't disagree, but from the comments others are leaving here, the comments I've been trading with some of the left-of-center bloggers I've linked from here, and the (for my blog) very large volume of Google and Yahoo image searches that are pulling up this page today, I'm increasingly convinced that that's about the least interesting story here. I'm persuaded that at least some elements of the Hard Left blogosphere are deliberately, thoughtfully testing, and trying to sharpen, an ugly meme that they'll be using against Fred Thompson and spouse that has nothing to do with facts and evidence — that's actually scornful of facts and evidence — but that they think might be a useful wedge to play on the shallow, the narrow-minded, the sexist, and the bigoted.

Elsewhere: This post was certainly prescient, back at the end of April. And today's the first time I can recall having been linked on the NPR News Blog. Finally, I neglected yesterday to link this thoughtful post from Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard, which also has some interesting comments after this blast in the body of the post: "That Libby [Spencer] at Newshoggers is cheerfully recycling the sewage from Wonkette in an attempt to get that little innuendo into the marketplace of ideas just plain wrong. Oh she does a pro forma preemptive denial, but it is despicable." See also this follow-up post from him, about her.

No more updates to this post, though. If I have more to say on this topic, I'll start a new one (and link and self-trackback from it to here as well).

Posted by Beldar at 05:19 PM in 2008 Election, Politics (2007) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Fred Thompson and Jeri Kehn: Trophy wife, trophy husband? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Fred Thompson And Jeri Kehn - 'Trophy Couple' from Hyscience

Tracked on Jun 4, 2007 6:26:10 PM

» More on Jeri Kehn Thompson (and the Politics of the Situation) from PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts

Tracked on Jun 4, 2007 6:28:08 PM

» On “trophy wives” from MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Tracked on Jun 7, 2007 9:57:44 PM

» Ex-girlfriends and ex-wife confirm Fred Thompson's "trophy husband" status on Jeri Kehn's arm from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Jun 24, 2007 4:45:16 AM

» NYT, predictably snotty and silly, weighs in on the "trophy wife" meme for Fred and Jeri Thompson from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Jul 11, 2007 11:25:06 PM

» Video clip of Sen. Fred Thompson with wife Jeri and kids from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Jul 15, 2007 11:17:42 PM

» Mainstream media flunks basic fact-checking by ignoring No. 2 from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Aug 7, 2007 12:08:33 AM


(1) Kent made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 5:50:09 PM | Permalink

Wow. Some of your links are to articles whose tastelessness boggles the mind.

(2) Figgins made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 5:53:06 PM | Permalink

Jeri is a gold digger in true form. If she becomes First Lady, she will give hope to hundres of thousands gold diggers everywhere!

Gold Diggers unite!!!2008 could be very well be the year of the gold digger revolution!!!

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 5:56:59 PM | Permalink

Kent: I actually found at least a half dozen more that are much worse, but that I chose not to link.

The USN&WR quote above makes me confident that both Thompson spouses are expecting this as inevitable, and that they will rise above it — probably with grace and humor.

(4) Steven Taylor made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 6:17:44 PM | Permalink

I suppose that "mildly gossipy" is fair, but I actually had a real point, that perhaps I didn't make clear: there is a lot of buzz about Thompson and a lot of people tossing their support his way, but really we, the public (even the engaged public) knows very little about Thompson. For example, I had no idea of his marital status until last night.

Beyond that, and why I posed the question, in primary races wherein a few percentage points here or there can be a very big deal, the personal lives of candidates, and the way that they are perceived by a specific, often quite small, segment of the selectorate (i.e., those who vote in party primaries) can be very, very important.

As such, it is not unfair to ask if some very conservative primary voters might be taken aback by a potential First Lady 25+ years younger than her husband--especially if some perceive her as "trophy wife."

Given the issue of marriage and families in the GOP, this strikes me as a legitimate question when assessing the field.

And, I would note, Thompson isn't the only GOP candidate with questionable marital circumstances--he is just the one who has the wife who by her very appearance has the chance to automatically raise questions.

In our very visual world that, too, is a legitimate issue when assessing voter behavior.

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 6:45:59 PM | Permalink

Dr. Taylor, thanks for the comment and the trackback. Your points are fair ones, and I'd characterize my own post as "mildly gossipy." I'm still learning about Sen. Thompson, too, which is why I haven't endorsed him or any other candidate yet, and why I described myself (in a post over the past weekend about Rudy Giuliani) as "flirting with Fred." I also agree that it's a visual world — that's precisely why I tracked down and posted several photographs of them here.

(6) Jim Henley made the following comment | Jun 4, 2007 6:59:35 PM | Permalink



(7) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 12:50:06 AM | Permalink

More (and commendably civil) dialog between me and Mr. Henley here, in the comments.

(8) Guy Foulk made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 7:55:56 AM | Permalink

He's an a**hole and a blowhard, she's a bleach-bottle blonde who's attracted to an a**hole blowhard. Sounds like a typical Republican match to me.

[Edited per blog guidelines on gratuitous profanity. — Beldar]

(9) Jinnmabe made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 9:05:13 AM | Permalink

As such, it is not unfair to ask if some very conservative primary voters might be taken aback by a potential First Lady 25+ years younger than her husband--especially if some perceive her as "trophy wife."

Don't you mean, "especially if some repeatedly flog her as a "trophy wife", using the classic dodge "some say..."?

The problem I've seen is not the raising of a legitimate question, but of trying to discover whether voters' biases can be used against them (short answer:yes).

(10) David made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 11:09:20 AM | Permalink

Great summation (post and comments) of this kerfuffle. One very (very) minor quibble, if you'll allow me. "a**hole" is a vulgarity, and perhaps in some contexts an obscenity. But unless the particular a**hole referred to is actually Divine, I doubt it meets any serious criterion for consideration as profanity.


(11) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 12:26:59 PM | Permalink

Thank you, David, that is actually a nice and potentially useful distinction that I shall try to remember for the future!

(12) Figgins made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 2:03:02 PM | Permalink

The point is, she was whoring around DC looking for a meal ticket when she started dating Fred. For some reason, maybe its the fat arms or the cheap dye job, she couldnt do better, but the money was there, so she inked the deal! Its obvious.

[This is not the most intemperate comment I've seen on this subject on other blogs. It is, however, the most intemperate comment I'll permit to be published on this subject on mine. I do so for educational value, while banning the commenter's IP; he is obviously beyond education or educating, but his shallow, witless bile is a good reminder of what these attacks look like when fully stripped of every shred of artful pretense. "Figgins": You are scum, and as such, unwelcome here. Return to your cave; plague us no more. — Beldar]

(13) made the following comment | Jun 5, 2007 3:31:20 PM | Permalink

"She was an attorney and political media consultant at the once-powerful Washington firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson and Hand.

Before that firm merged with DLA Piper in 2002, some of her "co-workers" were former presidential contender and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the late Secretary of State Lloyd Bentsen, and Elliot Abrams, assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, to name just a few.

Prior to her tenure at Verner Liipfert, she worked for the U. S. Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee."

Yes, Figgins, it's clear she was living hand to mouth back then. Plus as a woman working as a lawyer in a MAN'S job she clearly must have been whoring around DC. So what's it like being a member of the tolerant party?

(14) George Turner made the following comment | Jun 6, 2007 12:20:26 AM | Permalink

Elsewhere, in response to the "pole-dancer" crack, I asked, "Assuming it's true, it's still better to elect Fred Thompson and put one pole-dancer in the White House than to elect Hillary and have Bill fill the place up with them."


(15) Beth made the following comment | Jun 6, 2007 1:12:15 AM | Permalink

It's worth noting that Thompson would certainly NOT be the first President with a relatively young wife. James Madison, for just one example, was seventeen years older than Dolley Madison (who had been previously married!).

Funny how it didn't matter then, but it does now.

It's also interesting that so many self-described "liberals" have such rigid views about what a First Lady is supposed to look like, or how traditional she should be.

(16) Lonnie Johnson made the following comment | Jun 6, 2007 8:06:41 AM | Permalink

Why does all of this matter? Why aren't we focusing on Fred Thompson? He is the potentail president, not her. His values, his attitudes, his attendance to real, critical issues should be our utmost concern, don't you think? The rest is just "stuff". Trophy wife, schmophy wife, let's get back to the real subject at hand and not get side-tracked.

(17) RTL made the following comment | Jun 6, 2007 7:03:46 PM | Permalink

Funny how angry those on the left are about this.

"How dare a Republican be happy! How dare a Republican make a choice I might make! How dare a Republican take an action that doesn't fit into my close minded stereotype of a group that I'm prejudiced against! How dare he!!!"

(18) O.P. made the following comment | Jun 13, 2007 4:53:52 PM | Permalink

Fred Thompson looks a lot older than 64! His face has completely fallen and is sagging all over the place. I know a man who just turned 66 and he looks 39! No sags, bags or wrinkles. Barbra Streisand is 65 as is Aretha Franklin. He's a little younger than them! Or, he might be lying about his age?

(19) Mike made the following comment | Jul 8, 2007 8:25:19 AM | Permalink

John Kerry marries rich women and I don't remember any flaming lib calling him a gold digger.

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