Oct. 21, 2010 -- In an exclusive and far-ranging interview with ABC News, Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell strongly defended her statements on the separation of church and state but expressed regret for her "I'm Not a Witch" ad.
During Tuesday night's debate with Democratic opponent Chris Coons, O'Donnell challenged Coons to show where the Constitution requires separation of church and state, drawing swift criticism from her opponent, laughter from the audience and yet another media firestorm.
"It's really funny the way that the media reports things," she told ABC News. "After that debate my team and I we were literally high fiving each other thinking that we had exposed he doesn't know the First Amendment, and then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like 'what?'"
O'Donnell explained her line of questioning to Coons was not because she didn't know the First Amendment, but to the make the point the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. The Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's declaration that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" as a legal separation between government and faith.
"I asked him where in the Constitution is the phrase 'separation of church and state,'" O'Donnell recounted. "He said the First Amendment. I followed up with, 'Can you name the five freedoms that are guaranteed to us that are protected by the First Amendment?' And he could not."
O'Donnell maintains she in fact got the better of Coons.
The debate controversy is just the latest in a long string of incidents that have launched Christine O'Donnell into the realm of a national celebrity. The darling of Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin, who O'Donnell says is trying to squeeze in a stop to Delaware, she has also been the subject of scorn and mockery.
Meghan McCain drew buzz when she called O'Donnell a "nut job" during an appearance on ABC's "This Week."
When ABC News asked O'Donnell about the comment, she returned fire by dismissing the McCain.
"All you have to do is laugh," O'Donnell said. "She's a blogger, and she's entitled to say whatever she wants."
O'Donnell also mentioned she felt unfairly treated by Bill Maher, who she claims she responded to positively when first asked to appear on his show. O'Donnell said her sentiments changed only after Maher began publically threatening her.
"Whether it's with terrorists overseas as a senator…or guest on a talk show, I won't give in to threats," O'Donnell said.
When pressed by ABC News to say if she would ever consider appearing again, O'Donnell gave a unequivocal "no."
"He did a disservice," O'Donnell told ABC News. "Bill Maher did a disservice."
For her part, O'Donnell promises a repeat of her primary upset in the general election. And what of the polls that show her consistently and significantly down? O'Donnell maintains they can't be trusted.
"The reason why I think we surprised so many people in the primaries is the same reason we're going to surprise people in the general," she told ABC News. "When you do the polls, first time voters don't show up. New voters don't show up."
Despite bleak poll numbers, O'Donnell revealed her campaign will continue to target Delaware voters aggressively with mailers and hit the airwaves statewide with TV commercials. But don't expect to see any repeats of her "I'm You" ad, which opened with O'Donnell stating "I'm not a witch."
The ad, admittedly intended to appease the interest around comments she made in the 90's that she had "dabbled in witchcraft" only intensified the media spotlight on her candidacy for Senate.
"I haven't publically stated this, and I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying it, but our intention was to kill it, and that's not what happened," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell said she hopes when the voters go in they go "this is a woman who wants to lower our taxes" not "this is a woman who is not a witch."
O'Donnell says she will be out and up with new ads with a different tone. And as October draws to a close and November 2 approaches, there is one thing you can be sure you won't see Christine O'Donnell dressed up as for Halloween.
"Everybody wants to know what I'm going to be for Halloween," she told ABC News. "I can tell you I certainly am not going to be a witch."
And so what then? You read it here first.
"I was thinking about just going as Dorothy," she said. "I killed the witch. There you go."