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. Bob Dog

    It sounds like Mr. McDonnell might be a better fit in the Taliban!

    August 31, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Kelly

    This is just great. They find a decade old thesis and demean this man. Yet, Obama the great Apollo has sealed his Thesis, also his wife. Why, is there something in them that people would be up in arms about? Could it be that he talks about WHITEY too much and not with language that he wants anyone to read, because it just might tell who he really is. Something smells here.

    August 31, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Thatstheiragenda

    Oh what a bunch of loosers.

    August 31, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. texas buddha

    Who's votes are left for you to get after you alienate the working women, homos, co-habitators, and fornicators?

    Wouldn't it be refreshing if some of these Republicans who like to pretend they are for smaller government, would take that philosophy to heart and butt out of people's personal lives?

    August 31, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. Chris

    Beware of a Wolf in Sheeps clothing!!!

    August 31, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  6. Mark-USN Retired (Virginia)

    The article mentions Bob McDonnell's "Conservative" background. Readining his "manefesto" makes me realize that his roots are firmly implanted as a ULTRA-Conservative-right/right wing-neocon. Sounds like something a Mullah would be writing in a Fatwa versus a masters Thesis. Of course it was intended for the eyes of Pat Robertson, so that explains some of the topics. Sadly Creigh Deeds is too middle of the road to gain the support of the few independents and uncommitted that will role out for this mid-term race.

    August 31, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. 200 Days of nothing

    This is a desperate attack by the Deed's Camp because they are nervous and scared that there numbers are slipping in the polls.

    August 31, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. jdh n okc

    ......poster child for the GOP!

    August 31, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. CS from VA

    When Pat Robertson ran for President, he would at times be trying to put some distance between himself and his past. It will be interesting to see if Bob McDonnell does the same. Should he do so, then one must seriously ask what he really stands for - or against.

    August 31, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. LouAz

    So what's new with the Flat Earth Party and it's Candidates ? Nothing !
    Worship my god, my way, or I'll kill you. Onward christian soldiers !

    August 31, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Sounds like he would like us to be a Theocracy like Iran is today.The rightwing zealots just dont know when to stop.

    August 31, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. They call me "Tater Salad"

    So much for that little "seperation of church and state" thingy!

    August 31, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Chuck in CSG

    From 1989 – that's the best the Dems can do? Running scared are we?

    August 31, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. lou

    McDonnell research paper

    I find nothing wrong with McDonnell's paper. He stated the views of many conservatives, all of whom certainly agree with his views on "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators", immoral and sick people who ought to be avoided, and should not be in public government or service. As for his view on "working women", that was in another time, and frankly, I believe a much better time for the America that I love, and that today seems to be loosing all its moral values and, along with them, its pre-eminent position in the civilized world.

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

    God save us from zealots. This guy sounds like an American version of the Taliban.

    August 31, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. annie against biased news

    How about michelles' thesis of hating white people?

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

    Like Obama and wright

    August 31, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  18. John

    Another open-minded GOPer, who thinks

    Women shoul dbe home taking care of the children & the house.
    Working women are detrimental to the family.
    Feminism is the real enemy of the traditional family.
    Criticizes Cohabitators, Homosexuals and Fornicators.

    The party of "NO" wants to show us all how to run our families the right way.......

    and somehow, Obama is a fascist?????

    The mind boggles.

    August 31, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. cspurgeon

    Good Lord..I hope they don't vote that one in. When will Republicans learn that can't tell the whole world how to live their lives.

    August 31, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  20. Doug

    America's version of the Taliban....and just as scary.

    August 31, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. N D pin dent

    How long before he is "outted" for being homosexual,having an affair or, God forbid, having a wife who works?


    August 31, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  22. Bubba

    What's new?

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. Andi

    So, did this guy vote for Sarah Palin I wonder???? Where was he during the November election...or did he say TERRIFIC when Palin threw her 4 month old Down's syndrome child under the bus to run for VP?

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Great... Virginia gets a choice between an utterly irresponsible tax-and-spend Democrat and a self-righteous medieval Christian Ayatolla.

    No wonder 57% of the population wants to evict everyone of both parties from Congress–the only people entering politics these days are the ideological extremists more intent on reshaping American culture, and Americans themselves, to match their nutty preconceptions, than they are in serving the people who elected them.

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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