August 31st, 2009
04:20 PM ET
10 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. Leonard

    They are serverly distorting the word conservative. I consider myself a Demcrat who is conservative but I disagee with the Republican verison of the word conservative. These self-rightous blow hearts think they ARE GOD but then do some of the dirtiest things in Washington, D.C.

    August 31, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. yuri

    That's like openin' a new pandora's box, wouldn't you say?

    August 31, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Anne-Marie

    Making an issue of decades old document... mmmmmmm, isn't that was was done to Justice Sotomayor???

    August 31, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Cindy- St. Louis

    Just what the country needs- another ultra-religious, right-wing nutcase!


    August 31, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Truth is Justice

    Most American's are against pro family, pro life, pro marriage moral
    affirmatives that America is founded upon. Is it better to stand for life, prayer, home oriented mothers? or for:

    Snatching a baby from the safety of its mothers womb, banning children from talking to their creator in public, condoning the self deprecation and health risks of a gay/lesbian/transgender life style?

    We are endowed by our CREATOR...

    If only all Senators had him at the core of all that they seek to influence and support.

    August 31, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Ron

    Aren't these Republicans just great? They are all a big bunch of fornicators if the truth be known. They are also all nuts. Get them out of office.

    August 31, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Emmanuel Goldstein

    While it is demonstrably true that the last three items listed are detrimental to traditional families and traditional family values, what is being ignored in this shouting match is the question of whether traditional family values should be preserved.

    There is nothing sacred about traditional family values, and the left would be a lot more intellectually honest if Deeds and his supporters just came out and said "we are against them."

    August 31, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Tom in Wisconsin

    Theocracy...truely the nail in America's coffin.

    August 31, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. stormerF

    Lets go back and find out who really created the Economic Mess if we can go back 20 years for some stupid thesis paper..Where is the Media and the Clintons when blame comes to mind and the Democratic ran Committees who fought against putting restraints on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac???Chris Dodd, Barney Frank,Chuck Schumer,Charles Rangel,Ted Kennedy,John Kerry, and Maxine Waters...Why has the media not reported about the 17 times Bush went to congress to ask them to do something about the Mortgage mess?Before it blew up and became a crisis?

    August 31, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. jsilver2th

    Got to contribute to Deeds today- thanks for the story

    August 31, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. j

    This is the wrong candidate for Virginia, the USA, and the world. We need less people like McDonnell.

    August 31, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Kevin in Ohio

    If I lived in Virginia, he'd have my vote.

    August 31, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Tom, NC

    Just as whacky as Obama's views on nuclear weapons as an undergraduate.....if you hold one accountable, hold the other also....

    August 31, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Clinton Cooper

    wow, paint a conservative as a right wing nut bible pushing idiot. That is a first for CNN and the left. But you must know, that we don't care what you call us anymore and we are not gonna take it! You are with us or against us in 2010......

    August 31, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Mike

    A Master's thesis from Regent University can hardly qualify as a research paper. Just the mere acknowledgement that he matriculated there should make sensible voters skeptical about his qualifications to govern any state in this country.

    August 31, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. indy 08

    Bob" Taliban" McDonnell should just endorse the Burqa and move on. Where does the GOP get these cavemen.

    August 31, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Kris

    and another one, and another one, and another one bites the dust...

    August 31, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. Charlie in Ca

    Sounds like the folks in Iran to me. Keep them barefoot and Pre.......
    Go GOP, let's go back a couple hunderd years for women's rights.

    August 31, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Mississippi Mike

    Newsflash: A lot of conservatives agree with those positions. Also, don't forget that it was 20 years ago. Remember how Barack Obama was forgiven for launching his political career from admitted domestic terrorist Bill Ayers? If CNN treats McDonnell like it did Obama, McDonnell will win by a landslide. What are the chances of that happening though?

    August 31, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. Paul C.

    Don't worry...there are millions of right wingnut conservatives that agree with him and will vote for him. He will make a fine governor for Virginia..after all, Virginians are still confused about this evolution theory.

    August 31, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    hahahaha...see ya dude...wouldn't want to be ya....but please, do go gently into that good night...

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

    what a creep! wake up VA!

    August 31, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. victim of republican greed

    Wow! Working women a detriment to the family? Based on the detrimental conservative values of Sanford, Craig, Foley, and Ensign, I find McDonnell an embarassment to Americans, and completely out of touch with reality.

    August 31, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Billy J Texas

    Everybody is entitled to their opinion. But don't expect for people to ignore it, when they do or don't vote for you. (unless they just vote Dem or Rep without a care in the world what the person or party really stands for)

    August 31, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12