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. Mayor McCheese

    I doubt very seriously that his views have changed. He was hardly a spring chicken when he wrote this. I think it's safe to say that someone has fully developed their value system by age 39. I hope the people of VA make the right choice this year and not vote for a right wing bigot as their governor.

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

    Please get those ayatollah types out the the American political arenas. They turn out to be warmongers and fearmongers Anyone associated with the Pat Robertson camp has no place in local, state and national politics. Religion should never dictate how our government should be run. Our founding fathers would not approve.

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Carl

    Being conservative and being a Christian is not the same thing. I'm sick and tired of idiots all over the US that try to enforce religious views into a non-religious government and ruin people that actually follow fundamental conservative principles that don't involve your religion.

    Many founding father's weren't Christian, but so many of us seem to naively believe this is a Christian nation. Part of the 1st amendment is to allow everyone to choose their own belief and KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. The stupidity is amazing....

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    Dear Lord, please keep this religious zealot away from Richmond.

    August 31, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. Americans against crazy people

    Yep all conservatives are nut jobs.. yes this means you.

    Bats in the Belfry
    Gone fishing

    The GOP is a few trombones short of a marching band

    August 31, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  6. Grammar Police

    Error #1 – "Eager to draw attention Bob McDonnell's conservative roots,"

    Error #2 – "and described working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family."

    Error #3 – "The discovery of research paper fits neatly into the narrative"

    August 31, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Polar Bears Against Palin

    He sounds like the perfect Republican to me. Ha!

    August 31, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. Luke Brown

    Hey Virginia... BEWARE.

    We in South Carolina fell for this trap six years ago when we elected Mark Sanford. We just looked the other way at how much right-wing money was getting pumped into his campaign, and didn't think it mattered..

    You've been warned !!!

    August 31, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  9. Elliot

    Hopefully this will be his macaca moment. Virginia needs to stay blue or at least elect a conservative that realizes all Virginians need to be represented.

    August 31, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. Wynter

    With a divisive thesis like this on his record of accomplishments, how can expect this person to "represent and serve" all citizens of the state of Virginia? He has clearly proven that he cannot. End of story.

    August 31, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. Roger

    Although it may be hard to accept for the progressives and liberals, everything mentioned in Mr. McDonnells thesis is fundamentally true. It is through attacks like this that the fabric of society contiinues to decline.
    This is another story where the media works to portray being conservative as a bad thing. I wonder if the opposing candidate is a liberal who sees the current state of society as "just fine", and if the media considers him a liberal. I doubt it.

    August 31, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Linda

    The last thing this country needs is another conservative right-wing Zagnut pushing his anti-female, anti-gay agenda! The point of leadership should be to promote those policies that do the most good for the most people; not to promote policies that would unduly burden or subjugate any one group.

    August 31, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. Independent in NY

    UGH..... Another champion of intolerant theocracies. No difference between the taliban and a christian taliban other than the branding. These guys always turn out to be the biggest freaks going after whatever skeletons they are hiding in their closets come out.

    August 31, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Greg

    I don't live in Virginia but I find it very interesting how they try to hide their true beliefs to get it elected. When caught they always say,"it was a joke",I didn't mean it" or that was a long time ago and I have changed". Don't believe them. If he didn't mean it he shouldn't have written it.

    August 31, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. John Black Hills/SD

    McDonnell's social beliefs have no place in our modern culture, and I find it disturbing, and inaccurate when republicans claim to stand for smaller, and less intrusive government. Republicans should understand that Americans can read. Conservatives are moving to have a government that resembles the Iranian model of government unless we stop these diseased concepts from entering US politics.

    August 31, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. Patrick

    As though we didn't know that the Republican Party was selling all kinds of crazy? Anyone who votes Republican has to be completely divorced from reality.

    August 31, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Victory Gin

    While I find the snippets from this thesis so very wrong...on every level, I am also obliged to play the devils advocate and objectively listen to Mr. McDonnell's response. This document was, afterall, written and long time ago and people do experience things that just may change their perspective on certain views. this still your stance, Mr. McDonnell?

    -A Socially Liberal Independent

    August 31, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. john

    I hope this further underscores the difference between progressive Democrats (like Creigh Deeds) who represent hope for all of America - and backward Republicans (like Bob McDonnell) who represent slave plantation mentalities.

    Remember to get out and VOTE! –Make a difference...

    "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream will never die."

    August 31, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. Republicans are the American Taliban

    So the Republicans should immediately start screaming for his resignation as they did with Judge Sotomayor....right?

    August 31, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. Terry

    Love it, love it! Finally, one of the hypocritical snakes (republicans) has been exposed. How much longer will the people be brainwashed into believing there is such a thing as a moderate republican. They all want to lead the states and the country down an extremist right wing path.
    People of Virginia! Wake up! Send McDonnell back to the rock that he crawled out from under.

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

    Compelling argument for the separation of Church and state. There is a dangerous trend toward theocracy at work in the GOP.

    August 31, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. Lee Talley

    Wow wether or not you agree with Bob's paper.. He was still working from a plan. Deeds doesn't even have a plan for dinner tonight let alone how to solve Virginia's problems.

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

    Virginia going with Obama in the election shows how much has changed in 20 years. Here's a chance to choose again: back to the moral majority and Reagan revolution or forward into a more diverse and tolerant world.

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

    We have seen the hypocritical vision of "The Family" from too many GOPers already. It's called C STREET, and they way they treat their wives and mothers of their children (read: Ensign, Sanford, etc.) unfortunately epitomizes the sexist premise of this thesis. That seems the real detriment/enemy to our families.

    Enough of the bigotry and theocratic nonsense from McDonnell and his far right agenda. It has caused too much damage already on our great nation.

    August 31, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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