August 31st, 2009
04:20 PM ET
11 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. demwit

    What was talking about? All the 40+ feminists I know don't even have families!!

    August 31, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. "Victim" - Often Used, Rarely True

    "...his views have changed over time.." says the McDonnell team.

    In 2004 that is what Republicans would have called "flip-flopping." So now we can assume that you no longer have to "stick to your guns" in order to lead effectively?

    I'd like to know exactly what views have changed since this incredibly insightful personal and crusade-like agenda was written.

    And to the people aho like to play both sides, you cannot excuse this paper if you cite Rev. Write as one of Obama's influences. But we're expecting you to.

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Republican not buying it..

    Keep the religious loonies OUT of all politics.

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. James

    If this is a game changer and is supported as such by the media, then what of the many writings and comments of Barack Obama. Lets go back and review those in depth!

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. Lara Henderson

    HA-HA-HA!!!!!!! Sieg Heil McDonnell!!! You have to love those Republicans!! Marching proudly into the 19th century! God save our nation from the "moral" crowd!

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. paris

    not so long ago, those were the vast majority of all American opinions and goals, directives in life. Morals like manners have gone by the wayside, i was raised on those beliefs, and will welcome the chance to vote for someone who has some morals! Won't change my vote!

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Voter

    Good heavens – another right wing weirdo surfaces. What is it? Something in the water? Something they eat?

    Get it together, Virginia!

    August 31, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. Don

    Ahhh!!! Further evidence of the religious right's attempt to subvert the constitution and the rights of Americans. Republican's have begun a campaign of stealth politics. Their candidates are hiding behind or under the "broad tent" noise spouted by Mr. Steele and others. Pay attention folks, they haven't given up!!

    August 31, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. Michael, Gallatin, TN

    Oh please people, why all the feigned surprise? After all these years of having people like Bob McDonnell, Mike Huckabee, and the rest of the Christian Taliban proudly proclaim their intentions to convert the United States to a Christian Republic why should anyone be surprised by any of this?

    August 31, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Melissa

    Blast away Democrats, this mans mindset needs to be removed from the world. The far right Republicans are like America's Taliban, they'd rather keep women weak, than allow people to make their own choices.

    August 31, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. A. Goodwin

    I know exactly how this is going to play out. He's going to say that he didn't REALLY mean any of those things, and say he's sorry...that his words are used out of context...yada, yada, yada.

    Interesting...the GOP loves to remind people how past speeches/philosophies do not change...that once you say something that you are held up to that for time and eternity. Case-in-point: Judge Sotomayor. BUT....when it comes to the GOP having to confront past ideologies – lets just guess what the GOPers will say.

    GO DEMS GO!!

    August 31, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Matthew

    Its disgusting how mainstream misogyny still is. How can this guy be elected after spouting such hatred of women?

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. youme

    Things are looking bad here

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Nick

    This type of thinking should come as a surprise to no one. As outdated and extreme as it is, this is what Republicans believe. "If only the gays went back in the closet, women learned their roles, and white businessmen were in charge, everything would work out just fine."

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Ron -- Seattle

    Wow. Another one bites the dust...

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. sopastey

    The REAL threat to American families are husbands who 'praise Jesus' and then turn around and cheat on their wives. This poor guy just wants to be in the in-crowd so badly he's willing to roll everyone else's rights to do it. Poor sad little loser.

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. joesalters

    I'd vote for you Bob.

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. a progressive liberal and proud of it

    I smell the political demise of another Republican!

    August 31, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Mica

    So, McDonnell is saying he's a flip-flopper?

    August 31, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Cal

    Anything the Democratic party can do to advance deriding GOD is their best foot forward. I used to be a Democrat but that party is now led by the far left Obama and Pelosi Independents like me are why Obama's poll numbers are plummeting.

    August 31, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Chris


    A Christian Conservative view of relationships discovered "in writing".

    Well I guess that's it, we can discredit all Christians now. The cat's out of the bag. What a find. We always new these Christians were evil monogamists. Just imagine giving marriage some sort of sanctity. That's disgusting, and rude.

    AND HE WANTED RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS! My god these Christians are far worse than we ever thought.

    August 31, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Tom Paine

    This is news? It must be desperation time at the DNC.

    August 31, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. Wilhelm von Nord Bach

    I don't know WHY that would threaten to sink Bob McDonnell's campaign. outside of the Arlington area of Virginia, most of that "born again" Christian Taliban state probably AGREES with his beliefs.

    August 31, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. James

    I wonder what makes him different from the Taliban?

    August 31, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    This is not proof, but it is highly relevant evidence of the candidate's extremist views for combining religious doctrine with government, and is therefore an unacceptable breach of the Wall of Separation between church and state which has evolved in American jurisprudence.

    August 31, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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