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. Brian

    So the guy is a lunatic fringe right-wing religious zealot. What's new in the Republican Party?

    August 31, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Keith Murphy

    Hmmm... I wonder if every candidate's high school and college papers were published, if there wouldn't be something damaging in there for all of them. How did the Deeds campaign get their hands on this paper. Are all papers public records?

    I believed different things 20 years ago, too. I think this reflects poorly upon the Deeds campaign, digging up this 20-year-old paper. They're getting good at practicing the politics of personal destruction.

    August 31, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. VaRepub

    This will hurt McDonnell but it won't derail him. He is resilient, and most of his voters won't consider it a detriment- some will even call it "character". 30% of Virginians are Baptists. However, it will hurt him as he tries to capture indepents and he alienates them with his world view. Obama had a reverse racist who said the government engineered AIDS to kill black people, and we elected him president, a much more powerful office than governor. Obama, too, had many years to change his position. McDonnell may lose a few voters in Northern Virginia, but he will rally the bases in rural Virginia, one of Deeds' strongholds.

    August 31, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Charles

    Just another bigot trying to hide behind the Bible.

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Steve

    Biden plagiarized a law review article for a paper he wrote in his first year at law school.....now he's V.P.

    I don't think the McDonnell thesis will affect the race at all.

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Ben

    And this worldview is surprising? C'mon people, wake up! This is what these imbeciles fight so hard for! Hilarious!

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Georgia

    Old McDonnell had a farm – eyi eyi ohh! Another case of the Republican Party shooting itself in the foot! Only Good White Christian Men allowed. They dictate their twisted rules on everyone else – then break those rules themselves.

    Republican's = Incompetence!

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. Derek

    If I lived in Virginia, I'd vote for him. His philosophy does not sound much different from mine.

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Kevin in Ohio

    By the same argument, we could "blast" every single left-wing liberal in office for their research papers when they went to Harvard........ get a grip, pleeez.

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. ran

    That kind of thinking is a lot like Nazism. People when are you going to open your eyes/ears; when you are sent to a concentration camp because by then it will have too late.

    These type people are bring this country down.

    August 31, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. barbara

    i would still vote mcdonnel.

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Gumbee

    Hmmm... How does he feel about meat on Fridays?!?

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. bonnylass

    Atrocious writing and editing here, CNN.

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. CR

    Another whack-o Republican extremist comes out of the woodwork. The GOP is fast losing the the political middle. Reasonable people are turned-off by these wingnuts. Joe the Plumber, Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin, John Ensign, Bobby Jindal. Now Bob McDonnell. What happened to the GOP? Lost its mind.

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. Jesus Francisco

    "Christian conservative worldview that criticized "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators" and described working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family."

    So, McDonnell wants to carry the torch for Robertson's dream of a Theocracy in America ... which is the intention behind the funding of Regent!

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Paul

    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who judge themselves, and those who lack the courage to judge themselves and instead judge others. It seems that the conservative movement is more concerned with finding fault with others instead of looking in the mirror.

    August 31, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Mike in LR

    Compare this vision of governance to BO's collection of communists, infantacide defenders, euthanasia defenders, socialists, and all around power hungry thugs. Which is worse?

    If you care the least bit about America check into the backgrounds of these Czars BO has appointed. People with access and power but no accountability or scrutiny. Talk about scary!

    August 31, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  18. Ken in Mt

    typical republican "hollier than thou" sexually oriented bigotry. Give us a break. christianity is about repenting mistakes , not being hollier than God

    August 31, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. Druac

    No suprise here, it is what the right-wing has wanted and preached for decades about.

    August 31, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. bcords

    he just put on paper what most republicans think! they just have women around because it looks good for the party

    August 31, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Kevin Siemens

    I'd like to thank the Democratic Party for weeding these people from my Republican Party. I only wish the GOP was in touch enough to do it for themselves.

    August 31, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    That's odd.......it seems to be the conservative Republicans that have been doing so much "fornicating" lately.

    August 31, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. John

    ...but it should not be assumed that someone w/ an ultra-liberal past who had associations w/ terrorists and radical religious leaders would use those influences to promote a certain personal agenda??? (note the sarcasm). Double standards! How about all the people who preach open-mindedness and tolerance display the same attitude towards someone else's personal beliefs and ideology?

    August 31, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. nate

    ah another repubs saying the wrong things is that a theme these days?

    August 31, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. rich

    Is McDonnell the "Great White Hope" the republicans are looking for?

    August 31, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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