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. JC - Rochester, NY.

    Suddenly my idea for "The Psychological Reprimands of Sesame Street: An examination of deficiency in associating counting with the Count" thesis, doesn't seem so preposterous.

    August 31, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Richard L

    This isn't news. It's just more Republican hypocrisy. Nothing new.

    August 31, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. indyreader

    This is pretty much what we can expect of the extreme-right social conservatives – ever more out-of-touch with mainstream reality. This guy isn't fit to represent a diverse population, which isn't going away any time soon.

    This is qualitiatively no different from the Intelligent Design Wedge-issue pushers: Finding a way to push their agenda onto everyone else. Fortunately, someone found the plain facts hidden behind McDonnell's present-day euphemisms and coded language before it was too late.

    August 31, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Butch Dillon

    By fornicators, it can only be assumed he meant republican politicians.

    August 31, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Splat!~

    And this is a surprise? This is what the American Taliban and its' political arm the GOP are all about!~

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. gardine

    I hope Virginia voters are paying attention. The last thing we need is a right-wing nut in the governor's mansion (after all, it helped Alaska out so much).

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Rich

    You may not be able to govern society's morals but he is right in the sense that the family is the basic unit in society and as it is degraded and weakened so goes our society.

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Got to be kidding me

    This is ridiculous.... the depths the slime machine of the democratic party will go to to paint a negative picture of someone. They had to go all the way back to when he was in college and what he wrote on a college paper.... PATHETIC. Why not look at what he's done since he's been out rather than drudge up stupid stuff he wrote when he was in college. I dare say that the democrats would shake out any better if their college skeletons were stirred up.
    Shame on CNN for even giving an ear to this crap. You wont air ads giving a counter point on the health care program but you'll do everything you can to derail a republican candidate. You should really change your station to DNN (the Democratic News Network)...lets call you what you really are... you are not a legitimate news organization anymore... your are a spin machine for the democratic party... my bet is you won't post this either.

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Ed Loftus

    Let me see ... A Christian Conservative once wrote a paper supporting a common Christian Conservative view of the negative impact of certain Secularist Liberal sacred cows. Now he's running for office as a Christian Conservative and leading in the poles ...

    Yes, he's sure in BIG trouble now. If only we could find some major media outlet would run this story from the right perspective ... something like, "McDonnell blasted for controversial research paper". But where ... oh where would we find a news outlet willing to publish such an obvious hit-piece?

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. TC Vienna, VA

    Just what we need, another Repub wackjob.....haven't there been enough lately???? Another old white guy with a side part and a big smile.

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Sue-MD

    Whoa! Wait a minute. It's not like he was some starry eyed kid when he wrote this. He was a 34 year old man no less.
    This truly gives me pause. I would advise all his supporters to re-evaluate.

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. Pam

    YIKES, and this guy lives where? Sorry to say, but there are lots of folks on the right that believe stuff like this...yes, very sorry!

    August 31, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. TangledThorns

    If this is the best that Deeds can do then they are very desperate. I live in Reston, VA and have my McDonnell sign up.

    August 31, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  14. Steve (the real one)

    OK and I guess Deeds wrote a paper on the socialistic tendencies of liberal democrats. The people of Virginia will figure it out!

    August 31, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Chris

    From 1989, really? The democrats are really having to dig.

    August 31, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Carl Justus

    If we do not as the republicans say we are all going to hell. They have a road map to the good of the world and if we do not it, we are not even worth the pennies they want to pay us for our work.

    We are to live by their rules, if we do not the world will end and they will become the new dictators.

    August 31, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. tim

    Unfortunately, this will probably just get him more votes. Repubs will say, "Wait, homophobic? Pro prayer in schools? Pro theocracy? Anti women's rights? What's not to like!"

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Evelyn

    MCDonnell is a McFascist and a McLiar and should not be elected McGovernor.

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. mo nada

    wow, have a little discussion about getting health care to the poor and your a "socialist" a communist, " anit american" but have an extreme ideologically based PLAN for how to takeover america and your just a good christian??? WOW!!! it is time to wake up and deal with the fact that there is a fascist segment of our country and those of us who love freedon need to be on the watch for the, the RADICAL right, the amercian taliban, how long till they start whipping women in the streets who dare to work....

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. Dex Houston TX

    You act as if this is a smoking's not! The conservative movement has been successful at implementing their agenda. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George Bush used the this agenda to divert attention away from what they have done to this great country. Look at the mess they left behind.
    Greed and Ignorance Rules the Republican Party...a blind man could see that.


    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  21. BobbyB

    Funny, I don't see where he actually drowned any women or argued for public funding of abortion. Had those things been true, there would be no discussion, because he would be a Democrat and would consequently be idolized!!!!

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  22. Maggie

    McDonnell is just a sampling of what republicans are about.

    Oh, I wonder if he also believes in the right to bear arms.

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Beverly - NYC

    Why are Mr. McDonnell's views so shocking, isn't that how most nuckle dragging Republicans think? The only thing missing is his thesis is the sancity of white womanhood and the superiority of southern white male leadership . He wrote this paper as an adult of 34, so I would say his views are firmly rooted, until he slips and finds trophy wife #2.

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. Chris

    What is the big uproar? Why is this news? And why are so many people outraged by it? There is strong evidence that supports the view that American society has made a turn for the worse with the advent of radical feminists and a stronger female work force. The cost of living has gone up, and American values have gone down. Having a strong parental influence at home is critical to promoting good values in the nation's youth. Likewise, if more families had the division of labor on which this country was built, the cost of living and basic necessities would fall sharply. Unfortunately, this country has become one which caters to greed and vice, and leaves the family, the foundation of America, behind.

    August 31, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. Samuel B.

    Regent University is the same second rate school from which Monica Goodling, the Bush administration official implicated in the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, received her law degree. It was founded by religious zealot/hypocrite Pat Robertson and was formerly known as CBN University.

    It shouldn't come as any surprise that someone who wrote a graduate thesis denigrating feminists, gays, and "fornicators" in order to get a degree from this insitute for advanced fascism would be a right wing religious nut job. Any candidate whose curriculum vitae includes attending or graduating from a so-called "Christian" school is a religious fanatic not worthy of election to public office.

    August 31, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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