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. 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 |
  2. 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 |
  3. 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 |
  4. Pam

    Really, detrimental to the family? Hmmm...And here I thought that when I was a young single mother supporting 3 children, that working and taking care of my familty was a good example to my children. My children, by the way, are grown, productive and we are very close. They respect their mom for all the things that the dopey mcdonnell thinks is so bad! about detrimental to the family! I guess the dream is a white male dominated society with obedient women and no homosexuals. BORING and, not the real world. Well, republicans have had their white male dominated society and look what the heck they did with it. No more republicans...EVER.

    August 31, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Jun

    As a social pscyhologist, I'm not sure the data existed in 1989 to make such conclusions. However, now we do have the data which strongly supports many of the conclusions listed in this article. Just because data goes against someone's agenda or values doesn't mean it isn't true or shouldn't be explored.

    August 31, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Taylor B1

    Although I support Deeds, I am guessing that most voters will consider this old paper to be a non-issue. with little or nothing to do with their concerns about who will serve as the next governor.

    August 31, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  7. swin5

    Let me see if I got this right: 1. You shouldn't have sex with someone unless you're married to them. 2. You should only have sex with someone of the opposite sex. 3. Someone should stay home and raise the kids. Sounds like the blueprint for success that all great societies have had. I think this guy will get my vote.

    August 31, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Frankie

    Wow. What century/planet is this guy in/on? Why do Republicans absolutely REFUSE to recognize the Constitution's explicit separation of church and state? They're quick to cite the Founding Fathers' game plan when it suits their agenda (see: Second Amendment) but they toss it out the window when they want to impose their archaic, misguided, dangerous, abusive, discriminatory and – yes – unconstitutional philosophy on hardworking families – most of whom desperately need the incomes of their wives and mothers.

    What's next...........BURKAS????

    August 31, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Jeff

    That's pretty much what I assumed all Republicans believed, and why I always oppose them of course....

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  10. Kathie, Houston, TX

    Great – just what we need. Another idiot willing to throw us back to the stone ages.

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. O P Gomillion

    The democrats' philosophy of "anything–just anything at all–goes" is killing the morals of the USA. I applaud McDonnell for having the moral fiber to stand up for his conservative Christian beliefs. It is because the US has veered from Judao-Christian morals and values that our country now faces collapse from within.

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Steph

    If the conservatives could dig up and make a big fuss over the First Lady's college papers from years ago, then of course McDonnell's horrible "research paper" is fair game. Deeds is using your playbook against you. Oh, I'm laughing so hard I can't stop...ha, ha, ha, ha!

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. John

    So that is the republicns agnenda. I think it will be a long, long time before we see a republican in the white house again.
    The list of republican blunders and embarrasments is now quite long.
    Whats next, swashtikas in their garages.

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. Oh Please

    The issue is not that McDonnell wrote a thesis called "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade." and its draconian conclusions (after all he has said he changed his mind about it) but that he went to a university that would accept such drivel as valid research for a thesis and award him a master's degree for it. I just cant take anything coming out of Regent University in Virginia Beach serious anymore.

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Amanda

    I wonder if Bob McDonnell knew when he wrote his thesis at Pat Robertson's Regents University that Pat Robertson was a fornicator??

    Yes, his wife was four months pregnant when he married her while preaching abstinence to the rest of us!

    When this was exposed, LIVE, on the Larry King live show by a man who called in and gave us the wonderful news! Robertson's face reddened, and responded, "Well, we WERE engaged!" I HEARD that broadcast many years ago!

    His embarrassment was so obvious! There he was on the air preaching abstinence before marriage! What a hypocrite!

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. pj

    some of us (many of us) agree with Mcdonnell!

    August 31, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. Jim

    I agree Mr. McDonnell's philosophy, laid out in his master's thesis, changes the election picture. His views on women, families, religion, civil rights, homosexuals, etc. are extremely reactionary and should disqualify him from public office in any state in the 21st century.

    The great majority of Americans accept cultural diversity and women's rights. Just ask my two daughters, both in their 20s! They would never vote for a candidate with McDonnell's extreme views.

    August 31, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. Mark Sanford

    McDonnell is a lying hypocrite, and I oughta know.

    August 31, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. Nick-o

    What else are you going to expect from a Pat Robertson grad? This guy should have chosen a better thesis topic...and school perhaps?

    I wonder what those women in the background of his photo shoots are now thinking about "their guy." Why aren't they covered head-to-toe like the girls in Iran?

    August 31, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  20. Melvin Kelmer

    So, what's the beef? It sounds like this fellow has some valid points that actually go against many of the strong liberal base beliefs. Isn't this a free society to formulate and discuss and debate different philosophies? We are undergoing a liberal revolution at present that certainly seems to be failing our citizens and directly opposed to Constitutional Law. Maybe we should think about these Family principles and get back to a more stable, God Loving society.

    August 31, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  21. Jan Brazel

    Isn't it interesting that the Republicans want us to overlook a 93 page document in which McDonnell outlines his dislike of homosexuality, co-habitation and working women which he wrote 20 years ago. His campaign said his views have changed. How come they were like a dog with a bone with Justice Sotomayor about one phrase they took out of context to label her a racist. I think it is important to keep in mind that McDonnell was 34 years old when he wrote this paper. Not a impressionable youth with high ideals. I am sure that he has not done an about face in the past 20 years and still holds these same feelings about the lifestyles he wrote about.

    August 31, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  22. john menacher

    I would say have a hissy fit but this is all to normal. With the health care debockle it just shows that a conservative in the republicans has little to do with governance but instead the rule of American fundementalism over every aspect of daily life and the controlled demise of the public schools. WOW! These people never go away but they should just move to IRAN and live in a theocracy. imagine if they have a gay child, now thats sad! Used to be these people were just as decent as anyone now thinks to them and their hypocrisy we are almost all enemies to bad!

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

    In the rambling thesis, he was also critical of squirrels and other backyard fauna for trying to "steal my ideas" and took to wearing a tin-foil hat while delivering misogynist rants from a makeshift pulpit he constructed in his back yard.

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

    Whenever there is a [R] around, you definitely want to turn nearby rocks over to see just what the [R] is trying to hide beneath them. This is pure embarrassment for someone who is trying to pass himself off to a modern America. On the other hand, I'm sure most of the reactionary rightwing drama queens that post on here would be in full agreement with the McDonnell screed. In fact "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade" will become something of a "Mein Kampf" for the remnant [R] base. Why is this neo-moron so embarrassed by his own rightwing writings? - he should be proud that he can even write; most of his supporters can't.

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

    This news should only help McDonnell. He's right and his way of thinking sounds like it's exactly what America needs.

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