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Thompson's Cuba comment hits YouTube

Fred Thompson, the all-but-declared Republican presidential candidate rising in the polls, set off a firestorm with remarks he made in South Carolina on the eve of the immigration vote in the Senate.

"I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro,'' he said. "We're living in the era of the suitcase bomb."

Hillary Clinton's Hispanic campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, seized on the remark: “For many decades, Cubans have been forced to leave the island, risking their lives to escape Fidel Castro’s brutal dictatorship in search of freedom and opportunity. It is simply wrong to equate people fleeing from communism with terrorists.''

Thompson spokeswoman Burson Snyder said he was talking about Castro spies, not legal immigrants. You decide: Watch Thompson on YouTube here, then check out his blog posting to "clarify" his remarks here.

Snyder also responded to an Associated Press story that said Thompson had lobbied for deposed Haitian president Jean Bertrand-Aristide. She says he was only "of counsel" to the Arent Fox law firm, which represented the Haitian government.

"He was not a partner,'' Snyder said. "He was never paid by the Haitian government, and he never met with any representative of the Haitian government. He was asked to make a single phone call back in the early 1990s."

Published reports say Thompson called then-White House Chief of Staff John Sununu in 1991 as Aristide sought to return to power. Seven days after the call, Aristide paid Arent Fox $10,000.