Masturbation, Money and ‘Mental Anguish’: Can Christine O’Donnell Restore Her Image?

Sep 15, 2010 5:38pm

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports:  Christine O’Donnell this morning slammed the party establishment for engaging in what she called “Republican cannibalism” in her race against Mike Castle for the Delaware GOP senate nomination.  And she urged party leaders to repair the damage and unite around her, saying “we can win.”

But the image cultivated by her intraparty opponents – that O’Donnell is unelectable, a financial mess and an advocate of some extreme views – isn’t likely to be quickly erased.

Republican strategist Karl Rove even continued to hammer O’Donnell’s “checkered” background and “a lot of nutty things she has been saying” the morning after her win, while other prominent party figures offered only tepid support for the woman they once vehemently opposed.  

So what’s in O’Donnell’s past that has some Republicans harboring concern that her record could be an embarrassment and liability?  Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent items:

• ANTI-MASTURBATION COMMENTS

A 1996 video of the then twenty-something O’Donnell appearing on MTV’s “Sex in the ‘90s” has been creating buzz over her remarks likening masturbation and pornography to adultery.  “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can’t masturbate without lust,” she said.  “You’re going to be pleasing each other. And if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture.” 

• COLLEGE TUITION BILL / DELAYED DIPLOMA

O’Donnell received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Fairleigh Dickenson University this month, 12 years after participating in a graduation ceremony.  The delay was primarily because of unpaid tuition bills for which she was ultimately sued by the school. After resolving the debt in 2003, O’Donnell pursued an administrative process to get expired course credits reinstated and complete a final general elective course this past summer.

“I did the cap and gown ceremony. And when I did the cap and gown ceremony instead of being handed the diploma I was handed a bursars bill and awarded the diploma once I paid off my bills… I am not a millionaire. I did not come from an elitist family like Mike Castle. I had to pay for my college education out of my own pocket,” she said in a radio interview earlier this month.

• ALLEGED MISUSE OF CAMPAIGN FUNDS

Former O’Donnell campaign manager Kristin Murray said in a robocall taped for the Delaware Republican Party that O’Donnell used 2008 campaign funds for personal reasons. “As O’Donnell’s manager, I found out she was living on campaign donations; using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt,” she said. O’Donnell has denied the allegation. 

• SEX HARASSMENT CASE

In 2005, O’Donnell sought $6.9 million for “mental anguish” in a discrimination lawsuit she filed against the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute where she had been employed. She claimed she was demoted and fired because of her gender. She also seemed to suggest in court documents she was taking master’s classes at Princeton University although she was not and hadn’t earned her bachelor’s degree at that time.  O’Donnell dropped the case in 2008 for what she said were financial reasons.

• FINANCIAL TROUBLES

O’Donnell received a federal tax lien for more than $11,000 in unpaid taxes in 2006, and although it was later released, it’s unclear why.  O’Donnell has said the lien resulted from an IRS computer error, but some critics say she actually owed the money and simply paid it back.

O’Donnell has also been dogged with questions about her mortgage and allegations she faced possible foreclosure before selling her home during a 2008 Senate race against Joe Biden.  O’Donnell has acknowledged falling behind on payments but says documents showing she could have gone into foreclosure resulted from a “technical error” by the bank. 

“I paid off all my personal debt,” she told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York in July. “I paid off all my student loans, and I’m even moving to pay off my [2008] campaign debt.”

UPDATE:  O’Donnell’s past also includes a 1998 appearance on ”Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” in which she tackles the topics of transgenderism and truthfulness.

“How do you feel about transvestites?” comedian Eddie Izzard asks O’Donnell.

“Well, I think you have to look on someone’s heart,” she said. “What we do behind closed doors will be seen by God… our life needs to be consistent.”

Maher later asks O’Donnell about the importance of honesty, and she replied, “You always have to talk about the truth…. I tell the truth.” 

“The lie, whether it be a lie or an exaggeration, is disrespect to whoever you’re exaggerating or lying to because it’s not respecting reality,” she said.

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