August 31st, 2009
04:20 PM ET
5 years ago

McDonnell blasted for controversial research paper

Republican Bob McDonnell, who earned a master's degree at Pat Robertson's Regent University, is seeking the Virginia governorship.
Republican Bob McDonnell, who earned a master's degree at Pat Robertson's Regent University, is seeking the Virginia governorship.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Eager to draw attention Bob McDonnell's conservative roots, campaign advisers to Democrat Creigh Deeds on Monday called McDonnell's newly-discovered 1989 graduate thesis a "devastating" revelation that threatens to sink the Republican's campaign for the Virginia governor's mansion.

The 93-page research paper - first revealed in Sunday's Washington Post - articulated a Christian conservative worldview that criticized "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators" and described working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family.

On a conference call with reporters, Deeds adviser Mo Elleithee called the thesis McDonnell's "road map" for conservative governance. The Deeds camp argued that McDonnell immediately sought to put his theories to work in state government when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates three years after writing the paper, which McDonnell wrote as master's student at Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Regent was founded by Pat Robertson and was initially named "CBN University" after Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. McDonnell wrote the paper when he was 34, twenty years before entering the Virginia governor's race.

"This paper laid out very explicity his vision for the role of government, his vision for the for a social agenda that should dominate governace, and it even went beyond just a personal political philosophy," Elleithee said. "It had a 15-point action plan for how to implement that philosophy."

The thesis was called "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade." In it, McDonnell wrote that working women are "detrimental" the the family; that feminism is among "the real enemies of the traditional family"; and that the "purging" of religious influence in public schools is damaging to healthy families.

McDonnell's campaign said his views have changed over time and that Deeds is "seeking to make an issue of a decades-old academic paper." McDonnell's team noted that he once pushed to include child day care in a welfare bill so that women could have greater freedom to work, and that he is a husband and father of "strong working women."

The Deeds campaign, lagging the polls, is eager to highlight McDonnell's conservative pedigree, a background the Republican nominee has downplayed on the campaign trail. Instead, McDonnell has portrayed himself as a pro-business moderate and has captured endorsements from several leading business groups in the commonwealth. Last week, for instance, his campaign launched their first TV ad of the general election, a spot that focuses on energy and green jobs.

Deeds, meanwhile, has tried to publicize McDonnell's opposition to abortion rights in hopes of swaying moderate voters away from McDonnell, particularly in more liberal northern Virginia. The discovery of research paper fits neatly into the narrative the Deeds campaign is trying to create: that McDonnell is not the candidate he says he is.

"This has the potential to really change the dynamics of the race," Elleithee said, noting that Virginia voters are only now starting to pay attention to the governor's race with just two months left until election day.

The Deeds campaign kept up their offensive throughout the day on Monday, e-mailing supporters to solicit donations and sending background material to reporters outlining McDonnell's legislative record in the House of Delegates, where he served before becoming Virginia's Attorney General in 2006.

The Democratic Party of Virginia and the Democratic National Committee also issued statements on the McDonnell thesis, with the DNC calling it "nothing short of a game changer in this election."

UPDATE: Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia governor Tim Kaine also chimed in Monday, sending an e-mail to his political action committee encouraging supporters to read the Post article. Kaine writes that McDonnell's paper "ontains references to policy positions - such as opposition to contraception and child care availability - that most Virginians would find quite troubling."

UPDATE 2: McDonnell himself held court with reporters via conference call for more than an hour on Monday, distancing himself from elements of the thesis but not completely repudiating it in its entirety. The Republican candidate said that much of the language in the paper was simply a response to the academic and political discourse of the time. He said he has not gone back and re-read the entire thesis.

"I just sort of looked at the opening and what the premise was," he said at one point.

While he stressed his continuing commitment to a "strong two-parent family," McDonnell forcefully backed off language in the paper that criticized working women or gays. "Any of the language in there that in any way denigrates the basic dignity or worth of any human being, I very much regret that," he said.

McDonnell pledged that as governor, he would not try to change existing laws on abortion or contraceptives.

He said his beliefs are rooted in his Catholic faith: "Based on my Catholic teaching the institution of family goes back to the dawn of time - most people of the Christian faith believe that - to the Garden of Eden."

The Republican also repeatedly chided his Democratic rival for trying to make an issue out of a "decades-old" research paper. "I am insulted by Sen. Deeds to be able to suggest today that I don't support working women or women in the workforce," he said.


Filed under: Bob McDonnell • Creigh Deeds • Virginia
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    Interesting article but it is not compelling. It is all one-sided. Did the author, Mr. Hamby, bother to contact the McDonnell administration for a comment? The story seems one sided and like it could have even been taken out of context.

    August 31, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. Dan

    Let's level the playing field. Where is Obama's thesis paper from college that they have been hiding? When one lives in a glass house one should not throw stones!

    August 31, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. WI Henry

    "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators" and described working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family."

    These opinions coming from a republican is no surprise.

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  4. Boisepoet

    And how long before his mistress is revealed?
    Hypocritical power hungry men...that's all most of these dweebs are.

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  5. Idiot_Pelosi

    Good for Bob.

    I'm tired of homosexuals thinking we're supposed to bow down to them every time they want to make a statement.

    The guy doesn't "worship" homosexuals, good for him.

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Hugh

    He should have taken a lesson form the Obama posse and restricted access to his college papers. Still wonder what Barry is afraid of.

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. katiec

    A true republican who respresents the way the think and their policies.
    How can any intelligent woman support the republican party??

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. foreigner taking your jobs, CA

    For a County so caught up with "freedom and liberty", it sure seems like there is a segment that want to control your every move.

    Are Right wingers this blind that they cannot see that the GOP want to impose their set of rules on everyone and anyone?

    What happened to the outcry of "FREEDOM"?

    Oh, I get it it's only socialism if a half-white guy is seen as the culprit. 100% White guys could get away with a Dictatorship – cause they are "Real Umericans!" – PATRIOT act anyone?.....

    August 31, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Robert

    OMGosh, this guy is a nut.... Working women are 'detrimental?' Then he should have supported unions and a working wage. The free-market unregulated capitalism is the reason families need two incomes.

    Now the Repugnants are saying it is a old paper of his and Dems are 'making an issue of it.' Maybe... But, did they articulate that opinion with Michelle Obama's old thesis paper???/

    August 31, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. Larry of Massachusetts

    1989 -- hummmm 20 years ago. Well I seem to recall Senator Byrd fighting against civil rights. Shall we go back and dig up those papers. I will bet if we went back 20 years on anyone in Congress we could find something colorful. If Creigh Deeds had to go back 20 years to dind something devasting then I'd say Bob McDonnell is a oretty stand up guy.

    August 31, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. Beny

    I wonder why he didnt mention adultery? After all his repub buddies are good at that.

    August 31, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  12. Corey

    I am not shocked at all...this is the new norm for the repub party. Not the party I used to know.

    August 31, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. nirad

    if a right-wing lunatic like this can win the governorship in a swing state like Virginia, I weep for this country's future.

    August 31, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Jackie in Dallas

    OK, I'm a moderate, not a conservative or far-left liberal, but I find this disturbing. While I have seen and known people who have turned their value systems around 180 degrees in 20 years, it strikes me that if McDonnell had made a drastic change from his thesis paper in that 20 years, he would have repudiated that paper long since. And "pro-business moderate" seems to me an oxymoron. I hope that the people of Virginia do some serious researching, and question McDonnell in depth as to just whose welfare he has in mind...business or the people, and just how far from his thesis he has supposedly evolved.

    August 31, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. Jimmy

    Pathetic attempt from a flailing Democratic candidate to get himself up in the polls.

    August 31, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. KateB

    Sorry, but a 20-year-old Masters Thesis is fair-game, as even casual comments from 15 years prior are fair-game for most politicians.

    How else to get a good picture of where a candidate stands - especially when the person has not deviated substantially from the earlier viewpoints...I remember the GOP trotting out HR Clinton's papers in college as well. As for working women and feminists being evil: that's standard rhetoric for those of the GOP who are religious nuts.

    August 31, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Emma

    It is a good thing this man's fundamentalist garbage is known. But what if a lot of Virginians think that was as well?

    August 31, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Jay Baum

    If "McDonnell's newly-discovered 1989 graduate thesis" is relevant and fair game then the press should show journalistic integrity and demand both President Obama and Michelle Obama's college writings be made public. Any thing that does not hold both parties to the same standards is pure hypocrisy.

    August 31, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. Ed

    So what's the problem? That's what the guy thinks. What do you think? I guess your point of view regarding behavior is superior to this guy's. Correct? Be honest. Admit it. There are some people who should be put into re-education camps to correct their thinking. Right?

    August 31, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  20. Robert

    And this is why republicans are so incredibly scary.

    August 31, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. tn mom

    As a working woman, I don't find myself "detrimental" to the family.

    These are thoughts and opinions are core beliefs that are ingrained and don't change. I'd be careful voting for someone like this that seems WAY far to the right.

    August 31, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Michael in Houston

    Wow!! Where does the Republican party dig these freaks up?!!
    I guess the only thing worse then having this dinosaur sitting in the State mansion as Governor would be to have him sitting in your living room and being married to him!!

    August 31, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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