September 4th, 2009
10:49 AM ET
5 years ago

McDonnell counters controversial thesis talk with upbeat ad

McDonnell touts his family in his latest ad.
McDonnell touts his family in his latest ad.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Bob McDonnell is using a new television ad to push back against a wave of criticism over his 1989 master's thesis, which argued that working women are harmful to traditional families.

The 20-year old research paper has dominated headlines in the Virginia governor's race this week, with much of the coverage being spurred on by Democrat Creigh Deeds in an effort to portray McDonnell as too conservative for the moderate voters who have gravitated to the Republican's side.

McDonnell's new ad, which his campaign touted as "positive" in a press release late Thursday, portrays the former state Attorney General walking at a brisk pace along the streets of the northern Virginia neighborhood where he grew up. His three daughters - including his daughter Jeanine, an Army officer who served in Iraq - figure prominently in the 30-second commercial, which is called "Leadership."

McDonnell opens the spot with an homage to his working mother, distancing himself from his 1989 claim that such women are "detrimental" to the family unit.

"An Air Force officer and working mom raised me in this middle class neighborhood," he says.

The Republican hopeful goes on to promise results on the economy, job creation and college costs - avoiding the topic of social issues, as he has worked to do for much of the campaign.

The ad is running statewide but not in northern Virginia, where Deeds is running a tough radio ad accusing McDonnell of wanting to take Virginia back to "the dark ages."


Filed under: Bob McDonnell • Creigh Deeds
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Steph

    I'm waiting to hear why he hated his working mother enough to write the horrible paper in the first place. Or is he another do as I say not as I do politician? Does his daughter have children or should only childless women have careers?

    September 4, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. Kate in San Diego

    Of course he is being supported by the same people who dig deep and find out what a democrat said when he or she was 13 years old and insist they be held to it, but when it is one of theirs, they want to excuse everything. Any woman who would vote for this guy is truly pathetic. I admit this is a hot button topic for me – I am tired of being asked to admire and look up to women who managed to marry a meal ticket and act as though they are somehow better than I am because my husband and I require two incomes to survive.

    September 4, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Will

    The ad couldn't look more fake or more desperate.

    It seems whenever a politican is accused of hate, bigotry, or wrong doing they put out an ad with their family all over it.

    Look I have a family....I couldn't possibly be sexist!!!!

    September 4, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Sniffit

    They released their statement of concern about the economy 30 minutes after the jobs report came out? Soooooo, 8 years 8 months and 30 minutes late?

    September 4, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. David

    So a GOP candidate plays the "Family Values" card once again and the response from the right is "Awwww, I need to vote for him." How many times are people going to fall for this?

    September 4, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Jim

    I'm an outside observer, but two worrisome aspects of McDonnell's potential defense comes to mind:

    First, a master's thesis generally is not just another college paper – it is a prolonged meditation on a topic that one usually has a deep and sincere interest in. Beliefs may change over time, but if that is the case, McDonnel needs to address the voters directly and explain why he held those views at one time and why they have changed.

    Second, if as some comments suggest, McDonnel simply made the argument in his thesis to obtain a degree, then what does this say about his integrity? Politicians are *supposed* to uphold principles openly and honestly, so that those principles can be judged by the electorate. If he was willing to misrepresent himself to get a Master's degree, then how does this reflect on his subsequent career and run for office?

    Voters in Virginia have some difficult decisions to make...

    September 4, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Seriously?

    If he's so proud of having a "working mother," where was that pride when he wrote his thesis?

    This isn't some silly thing that some college kid wrote on a whim - this is something that he wrote when he was 34 years old and working on a master's degree and law degree.

    Maybe I could forgive an 18-year-old college freshman bashing his own mother in a paper that he never thought would be made public. But a 34-year-old? In his master's thesis? Which IS public? Give me a break, this guy's a hack. It's a shame he's going to win...

    September 4, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. WeThePeopleofVA

    It's amazing how the Democratic National Committee, Washington Post, Gov. Tim Kaine and practically every Progressive Tom, Dick and Harry attacked this man . . . but remained silent about Van Jones.

    Progressive = Hypocrisy

    September 4, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  9. gt

    deeds...ugh... garbage politics at its worst....

    September 4, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. Carol

    Yep, you kept her barefoot and pregnant awhile did'nt you.
    I can't seem to find anywhere that she works outside the home, before or now even though the kids are grown up.

    Yep, you LIVED what you wrote and believe. You picked a woman who didn't become a detriment to society and the famlily by having her own career outside of the home.

    After all, the world does revolve around men you know.

    September 4, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  11. Independent

    The irony here is if he had written a paper titled "Family Dynamics and the Post-Feminist Contemporary Woman," he would have been celebrated as a hero to women's rights. Looks like we're judging by a double standard here. It's too easy to criticism the Conservative view of a family because Liberals can't even agree on a definition of what exactly a family is. The Conservative view certainly isn't perfect, but at least it is clearly defined.

    September 4, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  12. DJ

    Hate and ignorance are NOT family values.

    September 4, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. barb

    His thesis is just another example of a man making comments about something he knew nothing about concerning women. Did he think at the time that there was a working woman who had a job that he wanted? Or was he just trying to get a political job with the "family values" party? I'd like to read the whole thesis and see just what he was afraid of.

    But at the same time it is exactly what is going on with the healthcare reform. How many critics are protesting something the also no nothing about?

    September 4, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. RONNIE

    Views such as McDonnell is what most republicians believe.

    September 4, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. rr

    Doesn't McConnel know that democrats don't care about his actions; they are going to focus on his words.

    September 4, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Rep McConnell is an idiot.....Working women came into being during WW2 when war workers were needed, and they haven't stopped yet. The traditional family would still work if parents just planned better on to handle their work and family life. It's not that women work, it's how many hours a day that BOTH parents don't put in quality time at home!

    September 4, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. Nichole

    So...he's still not actually saying that he's changed his views and disagrees with his thesis, right? So what's changed? He's just throwing some propaganda on tv to make it look like he's a good old family man.

    September 4, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. Farrell in Houston

    McDonnell's an idiot, a picture of his family in his case is not worth the thousand words he wrote in his thesis.

    September 4, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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