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Thompson offers
second apology on antigay comment

Thompson offers
second apology on antigay comment

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson cited a dead hearing aid and an urgent need to use the bathroom in explaining on Saturday why he said at a GOP presidential debate that an employer should be allowed to fire a gay worker.

Speaking to reporters after giving an address at the state GOP convention, Thompson also said he was suffering from the flu and bronchitis and had been admitted to a hospital emergency room three days prior to the May 3 debate.

''Nobody knows that,'' Thompson said. ''I've been very sick.... I was very sick the day of the debate. I had all of the problems with the flu and bronchitis that you have, including running to the bathroom. I was just hanging on. I could not wait until the debate got off so I could go to the bathroom.''

Thompson said he thought he was being asked if there were enough laws already to address discrimination in the workplace. The question at the debate was, ''If a private employer finds homosexuality immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?''

Thompson replied: ''I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that businesspeople have got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be.''

This is not Thompson's first apology or explanation for the remark. The day after the debate Thompson said he was sorry and that he had misinterpreted the question because he didn't hear it properly.

But on Saturday, Thompson elaborated by saying he has lost hearing in one ear and that his hearing aid battery for the other ear had gone dead.

''I didn't hear the question. All I was thinking about was getting off the stage,'' Thompson said. ''I said it, I'm sorry, and it won't happen again, but it's not my record.... There's nothing discriminatory about me at all.''

That gaffe, as well as one in April when he told a Jewish group that earning money is ''part of the Jewish tradition,'' has been a distraction for Thompson's campaign.

Thompson told the party faithful at the convention Saturday that he can still win.

But others aren't so sure.

''How many times is he going to say something that's completely offensive to the majority of Americans before people start to say 'What's going on here?' '' said Jason Stephany, political director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Thompson's gaffes may not have resonated much with the general public, many of whom don't even know Thompson is running, but they did hurt him with power brokers.

Thompson raised just under $400,000 in the first quarter of the year, putting him far behind leading candidates such as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who raised $23 million, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani with $15 million.

Thompson, 65, served as Wisconsin governor from 1987 to 2001 and was head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 until 2005. He established his presidential exploratory committee in December. (Scott Bauer, AP)

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