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. Big V

    Guy sounds like a loser, but typical of Republicans/conservatives. Will be funny to see if he owns up to this, even funnier when he's caught with his fingers in the honey pot like all the other right wing conservatives....

    August 31, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. LuAnn & Wayne Houle

    The gift that just keeps on giving!!!

    August 31, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Mike S., New Orleans

    He'll be a good running mate for Sarah Palin. They can galvanize all the right wing neocon nutjobs that gave us Bush and Cheney.

    August 31, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  4. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    Well, Conservative Christian Republicans have surely mastered fornicating it seems, along with toe tapping in restrooms and cheating on their wives. And yet they lecture the rest of America about "threats to the traditional family"? Geesh!

    August 31, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. Dan

    Twenty years ago McDonnell wrote a provocative thesis, and this is all the Deeds camp can come up with ? Stick a fork in em, they're done !!

    August 31, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. sam, HIGHLAND RANCH, COLORADO

    In a week of so, we will find out this Repub , does not practice what he preaches!!! His Mistress is laughing right now!

    August 31, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Jay Baum

    It is amazing how diligently the press will pursue the background and college papers of a Conservative candidate. Mcdonnell needs to be like Obama and just tell the press that they are not allowed to look at his past history including his college writings. McDonnell obviously does not have Obama's millions to suppress everything about his past. The press in America has become spineless puppets and are no longer serving a higher purpose

    August 31, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. dave

    double standard at it's finest...............
    now let's see obama's columbia thesis.
    do as i say not as i do. what a wonderful world we live in.

    August 31, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Mike, FL

    "working women and feminists detrimental to the family"????

    Only, a right wing nut job would think something like that!!! No wonder why only 21% of Americans identify themselves as Repulbicans!!

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. LacrosseMom

    Dear Mr. McDonnell,

    We do not need any more haters in politics, we have enough. It is a tragedy that Christians ignore the teachings of Jesus. For example, John 15 "Love one another, as I have loved you."

    Or the 100's of times Jesus warns, us, Christians, that we are not to judge one another. I especially like the scene, in which Jesus is standing in a crowd who is ready to stone a woman for committing adultery, and Jesus says " Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

    As a Christian, I am deeply troubled by the far-right-Christians who hate, who demean those who are different than them; who judge and condemn. You folks, need to read the Gospels and learn the message of LOVE, compassion and charity that Jesus offers us!

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Elizabeth

    This should surprise no one.

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. rr

    The guy's been in various offices for most of the past 2 decades, so has he acted on the beliefs outlined in that thesis, or was the thesis just a paper to get him a good grade?

    Actions speak louder than words. What have McDonnell's actions said?

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Jim

    why am i not surprised by this ultra-conservative view of what a woman's place should be in society?

    sure hints that "barefoot and pregnant" is in there somewhere.

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. virginia nielsen

    I can't believe that in 2009 we have a candidate with those views of a modern society. These comments REALLY sound like Nazi determinations !!! What a dangerous party they became!!! Their criticism of the muslin procedures and laws for women and gays became irrelevant as they are acting with the same FANATICISM !!!! With they in the Government we'd be back to the "dark ages"!!!

    August 31, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Just another example of conservative Republicans arrogance, elitist thinking and behavior. They are the first ones who criticize Democrats or anyone else who doesn't follow and agree with what they say, they play up their conservative values as the highest and most moral, then we find out what true hypocrits they really are! Family values is their platform, yet we find that they are just as flawed as the rest of us! Keep your lifestyle to yourself, and leave the rest of us sinners alone!

    August 31, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. tacuache

    Suddenly Palin looks better!

    August 31, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. SBrown

    Bravo! This man is exactly right. If families were not forced to work two jobs the mother could be home to raise the children. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with standing up and saying homosexuals are wrong? We have lost our moral compass when wrong is right and right is wrong. Liberlism is a disease that has infected the American people. CNN has no morals either.

    August 31, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. U.S. Common Sense

    Other than the covenant marriage section, and idea he did try to have passed as legislation two decades ago and failed (never to revisit again), this isn't that big of an issue. It's all public knowledge and has been examined before in the past. And since it was McDonnell himself that brought the thesis into the debate, he feels safe with the material involved. After all, this is Virginia we're talking about. A conservative state that houses numerous religious schools.

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. Minnesota Independent

    Bob McDonnell,

    Would you say that you've flip-flopped on your views? Do you even have any core values? What are they? Should I be staying home with my babies, or out working so we don't lose our house?

    Would you say that fellow Republican, Governor Sanford is a fornicator, or a co-habitator? Which of his 'family values' do you share?

    T. Gerry

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Tom in Delaware

    Try as they will, the Democrats desperation is glaring.

    Oh... the horror of having tradtional principles and values.

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. hirouk

    McDonnel is correct about homosexuality, women, and the family. we must take this nation back for God and a good place to start is by ending women's suffrage.

    Here is God's opinion on it:

    1 Timothy 2:12
    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

    God made women to be man's helpmate, He knows what they are good for. And they are not to have authority over man.

    End women's suffrage!

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. lloyd roberts, jamaica ny

    This is the reason why I left the republican party and I am politically homeless. The party that supposedly espouses less government in truth loves government intervention into your personal life. Calling Obamas health care socialism, these are the real socialists or social engineers. Don't let anyone out there believe that the repubs want smaller govt. Maybe only fiscally, but they want govt everywhere else in you religious life, your social life, recreational life, etc. God, do we need a third party, please Lord help us

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. I can see Canada from my house!

    McDonnell is running from his past: does that suprise anyone?

    August 31, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  24. annie s

    Ah, "Christian" conservatives. Jesus would shudder at the things they believe and do in His name.

    August 31, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  25. Dennis Cookinham

    This was a paper delivered in 1989, 20 years ago. I have no direct interest in this election, as I live in California. I only write because I have noticed a disturbing habit of CNN's editors to always talk up Republican problems, while ignoring identical Democratic actions. For example, any number of Obama's czars or special appointees have made statements or published opinions that are just as controversial (or more so) and no notice is taken. I have seen a you-tube clip of a congressperson from Southern California praising Hugo Chavez. Indeed, as I write this missive, I see a box named twitter. There are 5 entries, guess what each one is about a Republican.
    How about showing a little balance in your reporting.

    August 31, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
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