Catholic group asks McCain camp to drop controversial figure

Catholics United wants John McCain to remove Deal Hudson from a committee of prominent Catholic supporters; in 2004, amid scandal, Hudson resigned as an advisor to President Bush's re-election campaign.

Published July 16, 2008 11:22PM (EDT)

A Catholic group has written to John McCain to ask him to remove Deal Hudson from the Catholics for McCain National Steering Committee because of allegations that, in 1994, Hudson solicited sex from an 18-year-old woman who was a student in one of his classes at Fordham University.

ABC News' Political Radar blog was first to the story of the letter, which came from a group called Catholics United. The organization describes itself as non-partisan and says it has 20,000 members.

"As you are most likely unaware, Mr. Hudson was forced to resign as the chair of the Republican National Committee's catholic outreach effort in 2004 after allegations that he had solicited an improper sexual encounter... Deal Hudson is not the type of Catholic leader that you want associated with your campaign" the letter says, according to Political Radar.

Hudson had been an important advisor to President Bush, and a close friend to Karl Rove. In 2004, though, he announced his resignation as an advisor to Bush's re-election campaign in a column in the conservative National Review magazine, just barely pre-empting the disclosure of the allegations, which came in an article in the National Catholic Reporter.

The allegations were made by Cara Poppas, who was an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the incident, which she says occurred after she accompanied Hudson and a group of NYU students to a bar in New York City's West Village. This is an excerpt of the NCR's account of what happened, starting with how Poppas and Hudson came to know each other and then picking up again with what happened once they left the bar:

Poppas had been in and out of foster homes from the age of 7. The fourth of nine children, her mother an alcoholic and her father a troubled and disabled Vietnam veteran, Poppas had a difficult childhood...

In early February 1994, class concluded, she approached Hudson with a question. He suggested, she said, that they go to his office and discuss it.

"I told him everything about me," Poppas recalled in a four-page document she provided to Fordham administrators at the conclusion of the semester. "He knew I was a ward of the court, without parents, severely depressed, and even suicidal. I discussed with him why I had lost my faith in God, in humanity, and in myself..."

[After their group left the bar], Hudson and Poppas took a cab to the Metro North train station, headed, she thought, back to Fordham.

"I was completely in Dr. Hudson's hands," recalled Poppas. "Not only was I unable to stand up, I had no idea as to how to get home..."

Once in the car, said Poppas, "Dr. Hudson told me to lay my head on his lap, suggesting fellatio when he unzipped his zipper. I did both. I sat up and said 'Hold on a second, wait just a minute...' He replied 'Yes, let's wait till we get to my office.'"

At Fordham, “He took me into his office, laid his long coat down, and laid me down on top of it... I was just glad to be laying down, I could barely feel my body."

Hudson performed a sexual act on Poppas. He asked her to reciprocate, which she did... "He told me ... not to tell anyone, which I promised to. In my eyes, I was the one who had done wrong. I was the one who had acted disgustingly."

Hudson left Fordham not long after Poppas reported the incident. At the time of the NCR's article, a spokeswoman for the school said in a statement, "Sexual harassment is not tolerated at Fordham University... Fordham followed its policy rigorously in this case and initiated an investigation into the matter upon receipt of the student’s complaint. The professor later surrendered his tenure at Fordham."

In 1996, Poppas filed suit against Fordham and Hudson. Fordham was dismissed as a party to the suit; Hudson and Poppas settled out of court for $30,000, the NCR reported.

In September, 2004, a month after the NCR's article, Hudson resigned from his position as publisher of Crisis magazine, offering "personal reasons" as the explanation. Contemporaneous reports suggest, however, that he was forced out. He took a job as the chief fund-raiser for The Morley Publishing Group, which owns the magazine.

Political Radar says the McCain campaign "had no immediate comment" about Hudson. A McCain spokesman has not responded to an e-mail Salon sent seeking comment.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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