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. Marcus, Great Lakes IL

    I guess all's fair.
    The right is often commenting on things President Obama said when he was young. What goes around, comes around.

    August 31, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. WeThePeopleofVA

    Nothing like taking a few bold statments written 20-years ago out of context. So what does Mr. Deeds stand for . . . the opposite of these statements?

    August 31, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |

    Tell that to Sarah Palin. Women working outside the home does have an impact on the family, but for many it's the only way their family can make ends meet or get health insurance. Many mom's would rather be at home, but can't be. And many outperform their husbands. I'll bet he's not an advocate for supporting single moms to stay at home with their kids. Typical right wing hypocrisy. This guy is really scary.

    August 31, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. chelle

    The paper is two decades old....he apparently has gotten wiser...I would be interested in his views of the paper now though. How much of what he wrote does he NOW reject???

    August 31, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. Change_Has_Begun

    Why am I not surprised? Isn't this what the Republican party is about? Nothing new here. Just want to thank CNN for bringing this to the spotlight. It is about time to expose these hypocrites.

    August 31, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, Va

    This is the right kind of ammo to use against McDonnell. Paint him to be like the rest of the GOP.

    August 31, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Mike

    A wolf in sheeps clothing. Bob McDonnell is as far right wing as Pat Robertson. Both cut from the same cloth.

    August 31, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Larry

    Talk about a socialist!

    August 31, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. julio quintana

    what is that any different from the writings of Obama, Sutamayor, and Ted Kenndy. The only difference is the political point of view.

    August 31, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Pragmatic

    I believe this is what this conservative believes and what he would do if elected. 93 pages! This is not some short mis-statement – this is a clear picture of what conservatives are really all about.

    "McDonnell has portrayed himself as a pro-business moderate ..." as long as he doesn't hire women ... and there is nothing moderate about this man. 93 pages is not just a mistake: its a philosophy! Glad it came to light before the election.

    August 31, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. Minnesotan

    Virginia, please do what's right and DON'T vote for this archaic idiot!

    August 31, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. chelle

    Does anyone else see the irony in the Republicans trying to demonize Michelle Obama for a paper she NEVER wrote and this very real paper that can be held up to questioning???

    August 31, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. barb

    And just how does he expect a young widow to support her family if not by working? I was widowed at the age of 31. Just think about how many widows are the result of the Iraq war! I do not appreciate these "men" always making comments about situations in a woman's life they have absolutely no clue about.

    How does a woman build equity in a pension plan while she stay's home? Is he willing to pay a woman for staying home with her children?

    What happens when her husband decides he'd like to pull a "Sanford" on his wife and family?

    Women need to ban together and fight this guy and show him their power!!

    August 31, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. sharon

    say................bye,bye to McDonnell.............

    he doesn't like working women?
    oh dear.........................................................................................................

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. markthisdown

    Wow, what color is the sky in this guy's world?

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Mamanomia

    This is scary stuff.! Really folks.

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. ItIsMe

    Well since they tried to make a big fuss out of Sotomayor's comments, let just see if they'll make the same big fuss out of his. Where are you, Repubs, why aren't you condemning him as scum of the earth, too?

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Gail

    I'm glad to see that my suspicions about the motivations of some politicians are confirmed, in writing, at their own hand.

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Expat American

    Sounds like an interesting paper. I'd like to read more into the Conservative Ideology of the Republican Party. I hope that global media sources publish the document so the rest of the educated world can see the true face of Conservatism in America; only a glimpse was offered when Palin's cross burners held their rallies.

    In about 30-35 years, people who adhere to these messages of pure 'Christian' hate will be a marginalized minority in this country. Better days are coming for the U.S.
    John McCain is absolutely right.

    August 31, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. RealityKing

    Someone that still believes in the traditions set forth by our founding Fathers!!?? Oh my, how un-progressive...

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. John A. Worth

    When Barak Obama was running for President, every word he or his wife ever wrote, including university thesis etc., was scrutinized and held up fort he twisted prism of interpretation by the dying breed of ultra right conservatives. Reap what you sow.

    We see you.

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

    I can't understand anyone in their right mind can vote republican? This party is filled with creeps, bigots, homophobic, racist, ultra right, family values pretenders and as dumb as it gets, sarah palin.

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Farrell in Houston

    Well, atleast he told the truth, this exactly what Limbaugh has been constantly ranting and now McDonnell has written his words in exact context.

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Kelly

    While Mr. McDonnell's paper was written many years ago with no doubt consideration being given to it being a Christian School he was attending, I think he is just what the doctor ordered for this ailing nation of ours. As a working women that was raised by a stay-at-home mom, I have always seen it as nothing but selfish behavior for parents to put their offspring behind their personal persuit of career. And the public is paying the price for the shifting of parenting duties to the workers of day care centers, (god help us) teachers and even their first employers. Without having read the paper personally, it looks like Mr. McDonnell nailed it with stating characteristics of some of the sickness that has been decaying our structure for sometime.

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. I Can See Argentina from my Front Porch

    What if the husband is disabled and can't work????
    What if the family is facing financial hardships and needs two incomes to survive??
    What if the couple has no kids, but the wife would like to be able to go to school or take a part-time job to buy clothes or necessities for the home??
    I can't believe this man, or these ridiculous allegations towards working women.
    If this is not hate speech, I don't know what is.

    August 31, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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