What the world has learned about Christine O'Donnell

Her shocking victory Tuesday night ushered in a 24-hour onslaught of startling revelations

By Emma Mustich
Published September 16, 2010 3:01PM (UTC)
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Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell smiles while addressing supporters after winning the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, in Dover, Del. O'Donnell upset Rep. Mike Castle. (AP Photo/Rob Carr) (Rob Carr)

We already knew about the claims that political enemies were hiding in her bushes, the $6.9 million gender discrimination lawsuit, and the  outstanding campaign debt. None of it stopped Christine O'Donnell from scoring a stunning upset in Tuesday's Delaware GOP Senate primary.

But with that victory, the media spotlight on O'Donnell immediately intensified. Within 24 hours, a steady drip of revelations about her past activities and pronouncements had filled out a fuller picture of O’Donnell and her work as an abstinence crusader, Christian activist and "citizen politician."


Much of the new information reported on Wednesday dates to the 1980s and 1990s, when O’Donnell made the rounds on news programs and late-night TV as a conservative commentator. Back then, she was known primarily as the founder of an ultra-conservative Christian group called SALT (Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth) and as a spokeswoman for the Concerned Women of America and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Here is what we learned Wednesday about Christine O'Donnell:

  • In this clip from an MTV program called "Sex in the 90s IX: The Safest Sex of All" (first obtained by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow), O’Donnell and friends from SALT explain their belief that masturbation is the same as adultery:
  • O’Donnell also spoke to C-SPAN in 1997 about SALT's view of government anti-AIDS spending, saying: "Our position is that there’s a gross -- disproportionate allocation of funds when it comes to the treatment of AIDS." In the same segment, a caller says that contracting AIDS is like "a bank robber getting shot in the head while in the act of committing the robbery." O'Donnell calls this "an excellent point" and goes on to draw a distinction between cancer, which she calls "an act of God," and AIDS, which is "directly connected" to personal behavior:
  • She was a regular on Bill Maher’s "Politically Incorrect" in the late '90s and early 2000s. The first two videos below are from an 1998 appearance, and the third (in which she sits next to Bob Saget) is from 2001.
  •  In 1996, she challenged the concept of evolution on CNN: "Too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. There is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting [creationism]."
  •  She explained her thinking about sex and religion in a 1,400-word Washington Post essay in 1997. In it, O'Donnell describes her experience "pitching abstinence to the young and the restless" with other members of SALT at HFStival, a music festival. "The SALT, as our group is called, was founded by young Christians to help rebuild a moral foundation for Generation X," O’Donnell wrote, adding, "One of our first projects is to distribute stone tablets with the Ten Commandments and encourage public officials to display them in their offices."
  • In 2003,  she expressed her dismay at the idea of coed college dorms, asking, "What's next? Orgy rooms? Menage a trois rooms?"
  • In 2003, in her role as a spokeswoman for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, O'Donnell led a discussion on the women of the Middle-earth, as represented in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. She also wrote about the subject on FreeRepublic in '03. A sampling:

There’s the gentle and hopeful Arwen in whose presence everything becomes peaceful. There’s the tumultuous, restless Eowyn, whose free spirit leads her to triumph over her greatest foe. We have the regal matriarch Galadriel whose strength of mind has created a timeless haven for her people. Finally, there’s Belladonna Baggins, a hobbit who is mentioned in just four lines out of thousands of pages. Yet, it is from her bloodline that Bilbo Baggins inherits his atypical adventurous streak. This whisper of her presence ignites what has become a legend.

  • During her 2008 Senate campaign against Joe Biden (she lost by 30 points), O'Donnell accused Barack Obama of being "so liberal that he's anti-American":

Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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