- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell on Monday repudiated much of what he wrote in a graduate thesis 20 years ago in which he said homosexuality, working women and abortion were detrimental to traditional American families.

The Republican held a 90-minute conference call with reporters to address the paper he wrote while working toward a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree at Regent University.

“My views as an academic graduate student in 1989 are in many respects much different than my views as attorney general of Virginia and candidate for governor 20 years later in 2009,” Mr. McDonnell told reporters.

The news conference marked the campaign’s response to its first major crisis. Polls have shown Mr. McDonnell with a widening lead against his opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, whose campaign has been slow to start after a decisive victory in the Democratic primary in June.

Written while he was an intern at the Republican House Policy Committee and a student at the Virginia Beach university founded by evangelist Pat Robertson and known at the time as CBN, after the Christian Broadcasting Network, the thesis includes a 15-point plan that Mr. McDonnell said Republicans should adopt for the benefit of American families.

The 93-page document calls for passing strong pro-life laws, the creation of a covenant marriage classification, welfare reform, fighting the redefinition of families to include gays and single-unwed mothers and preventing federal funding of state sex-education programs, family planning or contraception.

“I was influenced in large measure by the debate of the time,” he said Monday, referring to a time before the Berlin Wall fell and when Ronald Reagan was president.

Mr. McDonnell said he chose the topic because “I really believed that family was really the bedrock of society.”

But the language in the document, first reported Sunday by The Washington Post, included stark references that even Mr. McDonnell said were out of step with society today.

“The American landscape of the traditional family and its moral code is being marred by social permissiveness and government programs,” Mr. McDonnell wrote.

Later in the paper, he wrote that “every level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over co-habitators, homosexuals or fornicators. The cost of sin should fall on the sinner, not the taxpayer.”

Mr. McDonnell on Monday said he regretted any offensive language.

“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. It does not at all reflect my views today. I fully believe in equal justice under the law, I believe in civility, and I believe in promoting people based or merit,” he said.

“My views on some of these things have changed. There were any number of things in the thesis that the language would be much, much different today. I’ve been honest with you today that several of those specific points I’ve repudiated, I feel differently about.”

Asked whether he stood behind his writings about working women, contraception and no-fault divorce, Mr. McDonnell said his beliefs had evolved and that as governor he would uphold Virginia law.

Mr. McDonnell’s opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, has increasingly questioned Mr. McDonnell’s stance on social issues in recent weeks, trying to portray the Republican as too conservative for Virginia. Democrats on Monday argued that Mr. McDonnell attempted to enact the agenda outlined in the paper during his time in the General Assembly.

“If Bob McDonnell becomes governor, he’ll continue to use this thesis as a blueprint for pushing his extreme social agenda that will take Virginia backwards,” Mo Elleithee, a senior adviser to the Deeds campaign, said in an e-mail to supporters Sunday.

Mr. McDonnell denied the charge.

“The idle rhetoric of the other side about me having a dramatic social conservative agenda that is not good for Virginia is simply not true. It is not borne out in my legislative record,” he said.

Mr. Elleithee called those comments a “stunning repudiation” of Mr. McDonnell’s time in government.

“The fact is, for 20 years, Bob McDonnell has promoted a social agenda that is outside of the mainstream,” Mr. Elleithee said. “It’s what he wrote his thesis about, and it’s how he’s legislated. He just hoped no one would notice while he was running for governor.”

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