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. Amanda

    Usually I'm willing to think people change over 20 years, but I know that I was told to do my graduate thesis on something that I would consider doing my PhD in and something I truly believed in. This is ridiculous. And if Pat Robertson's involved, it spells out nothing but trouble.

    I'm getting ready to have my first child and plan on working so I guess I'm just screwing the whole thing up aren't I? I would still bet that my poor child with two working parents with 5 degrees between the two of them will be a thousand times smarter and moral than most of the GOP right now.

    Once again, I'm ashamed to be a registered Republican. Sigh.........

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  2. mytabloids

    A Masters from Christian Crazy U? Boy, isn't that an impressive accomplishment! Wonder what it takes to get a PhD - a thesis about the world being 7000 years old?

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. Jason

    And anyone is suprised by this....Why?
    If he own up to it at least he's honest about it even if wrong about what he said. If he doesn't then he a liar as well as a fool

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. yougottabekidding

    Republican.... anyone?

    August 31, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. Mary Kay

    I wonder what his wife and daughters think of this article? Sounds like another Macaca issue for the Republicans in Virginia.

    August 31, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  6. yougottabekidding

    This party really attracts wierdos!

    August 31, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  7. demwit

    You mean there's something wrong with public schools and the American family!??

    August 31, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Jay T.

    Hey, Democrats! How about getting out of the gutter and offering something. I registered as a Democrat to vote for Obama in the Primary, and I like Obama. But, I have already re-registered for the Green Party because the only appeal the Democratic Party has is it doesn't suck as bad as the Republicans. Which is fine, but, they aren't getting my money.

    August 31, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. ANDROLOMA, Commerce City, Colorado

    Same mess they've been preaching all along.

    *yawn*

    August 31, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Brett from Oriskany,VA

    Well I,m glad they discovered this, perhaps it will wreck McDonnell's campaign. The last thing we need in Virginia is a governor who is representitive of the Ameriican Taliban.

    August 31, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Boston R

    And Obama has Rev Wright. Let's call it even.

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. gl, From Pittsburgh

    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.
    ------------------------------
    This is what is the problem with the Republicans party they hate working women, and want us to be bear foot and pagrent. This is why they hate abortions. The more bady us women have the more these bigs Republicans can run our lifes.

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Wise Latina

    Meanwhile, we await any scintilla of documentation about Barack Obama's school records, which are carefully being kept under lock and key...

    Investigative journalism by the state-controlled media these days is only allowed to probe conservatives. It is up to the National Enquirer to break the stories about John Edwards, etc., even though the evidence is almost out in the open.

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. Just Say No to Socialism

    Would this be the same as Obama's time and history with Reverend Wright and William Ayers?? Somehow I dont think the liberals or mainstream media will spin it that way. Surprise surprise.

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. "Victim" - Often Used, Rarely True

    Oh my. How will they spin this one? They can't use the "young" excuse (34 when he wrote it), they can't (won't) abandon some of the Chrsitain principles that dictate the culturally deaf tone of his projected implementation, and while homosexuals are rarely on the side of the GOP (vice versa), such comments degrading their existance will not be met with understanding other than by similar close-minded circles, which I assure you are far fewer than they once were.

    Wow. The fact that it's in print makes it so much more difficult to cite false context.

    This should be good. Commence the chrsitian apologists...

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. single mom

    This was 20 years ago.
    And how is that his paper is relevant, but the papers and thesis of Barak and Michele Obama were kept hidden and the media reported that as they were from more than two decades ago, they weren't of any relevance to the election?

    Why does the mainstream media say the past is important when it concerns a Republican but not a Democrat?

    August 31, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. D. Scott

    "Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition!"

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. John Sivills

    His views seemingly are not too different from the Taliban. Just think, this was not the whim of a college student in his early 20's. This is from a man that had served in the navy, obtained his bachelor's degree, and started a family; and THEN came to this conclusion in his master's thesis. Please Virginia do not go backwards.

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Joe in Vermont

    This just shows you the depth that liberals will go to hold onto and keep political power. The political system is corrupt in both parties. It's a shame the media is controlled by the left as the REAL truth would come out about all of the evil deeds done by the DNC.

    Average Joe in Vermont

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Steve-O

    Okay, now just wait a minute. The Dems can call it what they want to call it; they aren't "pro family" or "pro-life". This guy is speaking to the heart of a good number of people who probably share those beliefs. Be careful of going the way of the no tolerance for difference route too. These religious right folks understand that there is a difference between tolerance and acceptance which is why they try to "help" those who don't believe in what they do to see the light.

    I don't think the moderate block is going to hang their hats on this one issue and I don't believe they're that numerous in the great state of Virginia.

    This may very well be the fuel for the fire to ignite the passions of who I call the religious whackos. From a strictly conservative religious position, he is exactly right on and I bet the zealots believe that is what their state needs.

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. bubba

    does this guy thin it is 1700 or what? surely he cant be serious? If so, you can bet a gay scandal will break about him shortly.

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Buddy

    Freedom indeed eh Mr. McDonnell? The freedom to believe exactly what you believe or else is more like it, eh Mr. McDonnell? Will we all have mansions down there on C-Street where wives are obedient to their husbands? Maybe we can re-establish the holy roman empire, eh Mr. McDonnell? Do Republicans really believe in liberty, or is this a version of a religious fascism? Be careful Virginia....

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. TERRY

    If the people of Virgina do not agree with his political / social / life platforms, then don't elect him. However, his faith values are his and his alone, his right as an American citizen. Why can't "open minded" left-leaning liberals be truely open minded, and NOT just open minded about politically correct attitudes / beliefs / values?

    August 31, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. Josh

    Is this supposed to shock anyone. Just spend a few minutes in a white Southern church and you will hear very similar points of view.
    If they want a super conservative state run by religious idealogs then they should move to the Middle east where that kind of government is obvious working so well.

    Fear the man that knows the one and only truth, for the devil is his counsel.

    August 31, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. Keith in Austin

    Wow!!! The hypocracy of the liberals never ceases to amaze us! Attacking McDonnald's college termpaper because it was focused on Christian values??? All this while Barry Hussein NoBama has appointed known Communists as Czars and tax cheats to his cabinet. Speaks volumes to the direction the Dems are taking our Country. 2010 can't get here soon enough! It's time for The People to take back America!

    August 31, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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