October 19th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
12 years ago

O'Donnell gets Coons for Constitutional Law 101

(CNN) – Christine O'Donnell received a lesson on the Constitution at Delaware's Widener Law School Tuesday, but unfortunately for the Republican Senate candidate it came during a debate with Democrat Chris Coons.

On the issue of whether creationism should be taught in public schools, a highly skeptical O'Donnell questioned Coon's assertion that the First Amendment calls for the separation of church and state.

"The First Amendment does?" O'Donnell asked during the Tuesday morning debate. "Let me just clarify: You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

Watch the heated interaction, after the jump:

Coons responded by quoting the relevant text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

"That's in the First Amendment?" a still skeptical O'Donnell replied smiling, as laughter could be heard from the crowd.

Earlier in the debate, O'Donnell flat out asked, "Where in the Constitution is separation of Church and State?" - a question that Coons did not appear to take seriously.

Matt Moran, campaign manager for Christine O’Donnell, said in a statement that O'Donnell "was not questioning the concept of separation of church and state as subsequently established by the courts. She simply made the point that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution. It was in fact Chris Coons who demonstrated his Constitutional ignorance when he could not name the five freedoms contained in the First Amendment.”

Unfortunately for O'Donnell, the Tea Party-backed candidate also stumbled over the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Amendments when asked if she would support repealing them.

"I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately, senators don't have to memorize the Constitution. Can you remind me of [them]?" O'Donnell said.

Some Republicans and members of the Tea Party movement have advocated repealing the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment that grants citizenship to every individual born in the United States and the Sixteenth Amendment that created the Federal Income Tax.

Members of the Tea Party movement have also called for a repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment – the provision that calls for direct election of U.S. senators. O'Donnell was aware of that amendment and said she supported it.

Filed under: 2010 • Chris Coons • Christine O'Donnell • Delaware
soundoff (325 Responses)

    Ahh I love te spin from O'Donnell's goon...no she wasn't questioning it...just was pointing out, for no reason at all, that the exact phrase doesn't appear. I guess it's irrelavant that there have been dozens of court decisions establishing it for decades. And Coons is "ignorant"? Wow....just.....WOW!

    October 19, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Adam

    Between this woman and Palin, I'm absolutely terrified. Wow.

    October 19, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Oldie in TampaBay

    Maybe Sarah could coach her!

    October 19, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. IEK

    I don't even know what to say...

    October 19, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |

    Coons maybe couldn't name 5...but O'Dumbo couldn't name one.

    October 19, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. Ed from PA

    I try to be as independent of a voter as I can, but I tend to have one requirement for people in office – I want them to be smart. That is why I supported Obama and hated Bush. O'Donnel, Palin, and the others who cannot even answer a simple question... I sincerely hope the American people are not stupid enough to elect them... but I fear the worst.

    October 19, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. Readbetweenthelines

    She is an East Coast Palin which means she doesn't hunt, but is still as ignorant to her own thoughts as she is quoting the beliefs of our founding Fathers! This woman wants to not only prevent unmarried people from having sex with each other, she wants them to NOT have sex with themselves. Scary......"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

    October 19, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Cfrench

    Why is he even debating this half-wit? She's so far behind in the polls, deservedly so, that she should simply be ignored.

    October 19, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  9. Coondog

    She a smart one aint she

    October 19, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. Fred

    the interesting thing of course is that the first amendment does not establish a "separation of church and state". it simply states that no law shall be created that establishes a religion. OR restricts the practice thereof. it is common knowledge that the "separation of church and state" as now defined is a construct of the SCOTUS (everson and cantwell). and only in the last 60 years. too funny. and coons apparently didnt know that. HA!!!!!

    October 19, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    What a dummy this chick is. Her 15 minutes of fame are up.

    October 19, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It is a little frightning that many of these "tea party" people don't know the document that they claim to cherrish. It is a little like an epsiode of the original Star Trek where the Yang kept the constitution hidden because it was sacred. It was so sacred that the didn't know what it was or how to read it. Maybe these people should read the US constitution so they know what they want to defend.

    October 19, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "This woman is such a flake. Keep up the good work, maybe you'll manage to get the Latino Community out in force for the election."

    Soprry, had to respond to this, especially since CNN will likely avoid covering this FACT because it's just that disgusting and damaging to one of their little controversy darlings:

    The GOP in NV is running advertisements encouraging the hispanic population not to vote. The ad literally says "Don't Vote." It was created by, oddly enough, a fellow hispanic man, but one who has deep historical ties to the GOP. He covers up for his overt voter suppression effort by claiming that he's just upset with both parties on their failure to enact immigration reform, especially the Dems "for failing to keep their promises," but he is on record in the past as slamming everything the Dems have proposed and supporting the GOP's obstruction of it. It's a thinkly veiled voter suppression drive and an attempt to get the latino community in NV to stay home to benefit Angle.

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. yoyoma

    way to go tea people...you voted for a bag of rocks

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. duke

    This is toooo funny!!
    How can people seriously consider giving the hypocrites their vote??
    Joe miller hate government help for ALL,with the exception of his family(wife collects unemployment,farm subsidizes,even though he received such help in the 90's for his family farm)
    Carly(I'll ship your jobs overseas)fiorina feels she will make america better by shipping your jobs overseas!!
    The preacher Rand Paul(thinks religion is a joke.
    The Nazi(lott)loves the jewish vote but he love SS a little more!

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. HuntFish

    Bill Maher, so long as she never actually gets elected, we all owe you an infinite amount of gratitude for bringing this astonishing gem to the center stage of American politics. What better way to illustrate the hypocritical ignorance of right wing nuts? Teabaggers advocate strict adherance to the Constitution, but they don't even know what the heck the document says. Sorry, Christine, is the first amendment too long to hold your attention? Or maybe it was too far down on the list... Being the First Amendment and all, you just didn't get to it. She is really stunned by the fact that the good 'ol USA would ban nationalizing a religion. Guess she forgot why our forefathers came here and established this country in the first place... Teabaggers are doing all they can to turn the USA into something like NAZI Germany. The first step is to create xenophobia and hatred towards immigrants, the impovershed, other countries, other races and other religions. By revealing her ignorance of the First Amendment, O'Donnel has demonstrated one of her agendas- the establishment of a nationalized religion, which is the first step towards something like NAZI Germany. Now, I want to be clear, the Teabaggers are NOT NAZIs, it is just that what they are doing is more dangerous than even they may realize, and it may lead to something like NAZI Germany, if it were to grow and fester. However, I do have much more faith in the American people as a whole than I do in the Teabaggers, so I think we'll be all right.... I can't really imagine anyone really voting for this imbecile anyhow... She almost makes Palin look like she's smart. Well, at lesat not so dumb.. Cheers!

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Alex

    Teabaggers just really don't value education do they? They just really don't.

    Teabaggers = a threat to our children and our future economy.

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. Justintime

    Wow!! she wants to be a lawmaker, actually write laws. She needs to be a bit more curious about the law before she can wisely and smartly write them. Getting familiar with the law takes time. That's why so many lawmakers are lawyers. it takes time, alot of time to know how not to screw up the lives of people with the law. She's not ready. Life is too precious and is serious. We don't live forever so lets make progress while we are living.

    October 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Tamooj

    I would be much more interested in the Tea Party's stated goals of smaller government / fiscal responsibility / anti-incumbent if they would only offer up a few credible candidates who weren't obviously ignorant or crazy. The whole "Let's talk about the issues, not my background" would be silly if a stranger walked into the operating room of a hospital and you demanded to know if they were a real doctor. So why are we letting candidates for the US Senate get away with this? Absurdity. Currently, the Tea Party is just the populist No-Nothing Party from the 19th century – a vote for Fear and Ignorance. Sorry folks – there really are no simple answers to complex problems. That's just the way the world works. If you want to make a positive different, vote for someone really really smart *and ethical. That's the secret sauce to a solid Republic.

    October 19, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Jaywing

    And we should be surprised at this obvious display of ignorance on the part of O'donnel regarding the Constitution? Really? This is a person who, as we have all seen displayed week after week, doesn't understand anything about science, reason, logic, and apparently the structure of the Consitiution. The world is laughing at us right now, because we give credence to what diots like Odonnel, Angle, Beck, Paul, etc. have to say on any subject. They're the most ignorant bunch of politicians on the planet, but for some unfathomable reason, you keep reporting on them as if they're intellectual giants. These are stupid people, folks. That's all there is to it. And if you vote for them, you're nuts.

    October 19, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. Bertina

    This article went from bad to worse. It makes no sense and the tagline doesn't gell with the text.

    October 19, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Grandbrother

    What's frightening is that many Tea Party people I've talked to insist that the first amendment does not, and was never intended to establish a separation of church and state. Luckily, our Founding Fathers disagree:

    "Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history" – James Madison, Detached Memoranda -1820

    "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State" – Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association – January 1, 1802

    There are many other examples....

    October 19, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Joann Stump

    Think it's Coons that needs Con Law 101! Separation of Church and State IS NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. Was incorporated in Supreme Court Decision and was phrased used by Jefferson in letter to Danbury Baptist to APPEASE THEM THAT GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT INTRUDE IN THEIR AFFAIRS NOT VISA VERSA. Kudos to O' Donnell! First Ammendment is Establishmenht Clause which prevents the free excercise of religion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CNN YOUR SHOWING YOUR TRUE COLORS!

    October 19, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  24. Richard T.

    Just like Sharron Angle. Theocratic idiots!

    October 19, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. YBP

    I think Christine O'Donnell's 15 minutes were up about 45 minutes ago. It's time she pursued other career options.

    October 19, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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