Mitt Romney's presidential campaign further distanced itself this morning from a website attacking rival Fred Thompson.
"The site had no direct affiliation to our campaign, and we had no knowledge of its development," said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Romney campaign.
The website, PhoneyFred.org, made unflattering characterizations of the new entrant into the Republican nomination race, calling him "Playboy Fred," "Trial Lawyer Fred," and "Moron Fred," among other monikers.
The site, which was taken down after reporters inquired about it on Monday, was linked to the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, a top consultant for Romney in South Carolina.
Madden said that the site was created by an employee at an Internet firm who placed it temporarily on a server of the Tompkins firm.
"We made it clear that we did not approve of the site and asked for immediate action to make sure it was again in no way affiliated with the campaign," Madden said in an emailed statement. "The person responsible is not an employee of ours, but we took immediate action to make sure it was clear the site was not affiliated with the campaign."
Madden did not directly address a call for a Thompson campaign spokesman to fire Tompkins and to issue an apology for what he called "high-tech gutter politics."
The Thompson campaign was not satisfied with Romney's response, and this afternoon reissued its demand for an apology and firings with some harsh words.
"Today's half-baked cover-up attempt by the Romney campaign does not even pass the laugh test," Todd Harris, a Thompson campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
"This latest episode only serves to prove what many voters are already figuring out: Mitt Romney will do anything, say anything, smear any opponent and flip flop on any position in order to win. The American people in general and the Republican Party in particular deserve better than this."