Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She is a graduate of New York University, where she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, the Washington Square News. She can be reached at

Articles by Catherine

President Barack Obama spread a little holiday cheer at the gym Tuesday in Kailua, Hawaii when he signed an autograph for a young girl visiting with her family from Toronto.

The president was playing basketball and lifting free weights when he stopped to sign an autograph for Krystin Lavelle, 10, according to a pool report. Obama wrote "To Kyrstin -- Dream big dreams!" in the girl's journal.

Kyrstin also said she gave Obama flowers, which he joked he'd give to First Lady Michelle Obama and say that he picked them. She said the President was "really nice," according to the pool report.

A man dressed as Santa Claus for a toy giveaway was shot in the back with a pellet gun Tuesday morning in the Southeast area of Washington, D.C., WJLA reported.

A WJLA photographer who was interviewing the man at the time of the shooting and captured it on video said the victim was struck in his upper back. Police told the news station they believe the pellet gun shots came from a second story window in a nearby building.

Paramedics insisted the victim be transported to a nearby hospital, although the man dressed as Santa wanted to continue on the toy giveaway, according to WJLA. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Festivus' pop-culture dominance may have run its course with Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) anti-Washington tweeting spree.

At least that's what Dan O'Keefe, the "Seinfeld" writer whose odd family tradition inspired the fake holiday, implied Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."

“When Rand Paul tries to seem relevant with 15-year-old pop cultural references, it reminds me of when Bob Hope used to dress up as the Fonz, but that’s just me,” O’Keefe said, as quoted by Politico.

Paul wrote a lengthy series of tweets Monday that aired his Festivus grievances, from parking in Washington, D.C. to the latest budget deal. But if O'Keefe had it his way, as he explained to "New Day," his "family disgrace" wouldn't have made it to television in the first place, let alone pervaded American pop culture.

Although he's already declared "mission accomplished," Edward Snowden recorded an address calling for an end to mass government surveillance that is set to air Christmas day in the United Kingdom.

According to the Guardian, the former National Security Agency contractor cited George Orwell's novel "1984"  in the address as a warning of "the danger of this kind of information."

He also used the address to highlight the political consequences of his disclosure of top-secret NSA documents, including a federal judge's ruling that the agency's phone records collection program likely violates the U.S. Constitution.

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it," Snowden said, as quoted by the Guardian. "Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday hinted at "big plans for 2014" in an end-of-the-year fundraising pitch to supporters of the Clinton Foundation, the Washington Post reported.

In an email to supporters of the family's charitable foundation, Clinton wrote that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would match all donations up to Dec. 31.

“We have big plans for 2014,” Clinton wrote in the email, as quoted by the Washington Post. The email detailed the charitable foundation's priorities, including initiatives for education, women's equality, and job skills development.

In a similar vein, Clinton told ABC's Barbara Walters last week that the country's economic concerns were more pressing to her than the prospect of running for higher office. But a final decision on launching a presidential run was forthcoming in the new year, she said.

"I will look carefully at what I think I can do and make that decision sometime next year," Clinton said.

Sarah Palin admitted Monday night that she never actually read the GQ interview that surfaced anti-gay, racist comments made by the star of "Duck Dynasty," which she staunchly defended last week as "free speech."

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren asked Palin if she took issue with the manner in which "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson made his comments, which Van Susteren characterized as "graphic" and "offensive," even if she agreed with the substance of what Robertson said.

"I haven't read the article. I don't know exactly how he said it," Palin responded. "But what he was doing was in response to a question about a lifestyle he disagrees with, and yet he has said over and over again he doesn't hate the person engaging in a lifestyle he disagrees with."

The substance of Robertson's comments was that homosexuality is a sin -- one he equated with "bestiality." "Don’t be deceived," Robertson told GQ, paraphrasing the Bible. "Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

According to Palin's reasoning, she didn't have to read the interview to defend Robertson in the first place because the substance of his comments didn't matter. He was invoking the Bible, she said, so his critics are actually taking issue with Scripture itself.

"In response, he was quoting the Gospel," she told Van Susteren. "So people who are so insulted and offended by what he said evidently are offended by what he was quoting in the Gospel."

Watch the interview below, courtesy of Fox News:

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A man shot and killed his stepdaughter Monday morning after apparently mistaking her for a burglar, according to police.

Colorado TV station KKTV reported the shooting happened at around 6 a.m. at the family's residence in Colorado Springs. The girl, 14, was taken to the hospital where she later died.

Colorado Springs police spokesman Larry Herbert told CBS News that the stepfather did fire a weapon, although it was unclear if he in fact thought the girl was a burglar. The station had received a report of a "burglary in progress."

The shooting was under investigation, accordion to KKTV, and the District Attorney's office was expected to decide whether the stepfather would face charges.

American Catholics are feeling a whole lot of goodwill for Pope Francis on his first Christmas as pontiff, according to a new poll.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday showed 88 percent of American Catholics approved of Francis' job as head of the church.

And among the American public in general, nearly three in four have a favorable view of the pontiff, according to the poll. As CNN points out, those figures suggest the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today.

Francis earned the distinction of being named Time Magazine's 2013 Person of the Year for reforming the tone and focus of the Catholic church set by his predecessors. In his nine months as Pope, Francis chided church officials "obsessed" with abortion and gay marriage, spoke out against capitalist economic policies that generate inequality (which earned a shout-out from President Barack Obama and accusations of Marxism from Rush Limbaugh), and possibly snuck out of the Vatican at night to commune with the homeless.

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Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked top-secret documents on mass government surveillance programs to journalists this spring, has declared his mission accomplished.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden told Barton Gellman, the Washington Post journalist to whom he leaked some of the documents he took from the NSA, in an interview published Monday night.

“I already won," he said. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

Snowden spoke with Gellman in Moscow, his first in-person interview since arriving in Russia in June and securing temporary asylum. Gellman described Snowden as "relaxed and animated" over the course of their two-day conversation.

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