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Christine O'Donnell's Younger Years: Forget Witchcraft, Think Media Goddess

4 years ago
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Bless her heart. Christine O'Donnell has a lot of people angry at her -- Wiccans, Satanists, Bill Maher, and even some Republicans.

No small feat, but reflecting on O'Donnell's history, it's par for the course.

Maher made an appearance on "Hardball With Chris Matthews" Tuesday night to discuss O'Donnell, who made more than 20 appearances on his "Politically Incorrect" show years ago. Over the weekend, O'Donnell, who is the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware, said she made comments like the one about dabbling in witchcraft to help Maher with ratings.

Maher called foul.

"It's funny to me, Chris, because this is the woman who claimed on another one of our 'Politically Incorrect' episodes from the '90s that she would not lie, even in the case of hiding Anne Frank in her attic," Maher told Matthews. "Eddie Izzard confronted her and said, 'Really? If Hitler was at the door and you had Anne Frank in the attic, you wouldn't lie?' She said, 'No. God would find a way.' "

Perhaps, Maher did want ratings, but O'Donnell had her own agenda as a young, firebrand former Catholic-turned-Evangelical Christian pushing her message. She said on Sean Hannity's Fox News show Tuesday night that she viewed such appearances as a ministry and that she was excited back then about her new-found faith.

Some will laugh at her naivete, and likely doubt the veracity of her statement, but I know plenty of people who, in their teens and twenties in the Bible belt, tossed their heavy metal albums into the roaring fireplace and began quoting the Gospel.
O'Donnell told Hannity that her "faith has matured" since her twenties.

But that comment doesn't appease Wiccans and Satanists, who want her to understand their beliefs. Wiccans say that O'Donnell is confused about witchcraft. They have altars but no blood. Satanists have rebuffed O'Donnell, too. They claim no real Satanist would ever have a picnic on an altar.

Give Christine a break. Her dabbling in the dark side may have happened exactly as she described. Blame the boy she dated. Maybe the young warlock was trying to impress her by turning his weight bench into a devil-worshipping altar and splattering some red food coloring for effect.

Her story to Maher also could have been pure theatrics. After all, she started off as a theater major in college and ended up in the College Republicans. From there, she found her way to Washington, working with Enough Is Enough, an anti-pornography group, and later at the Republican National Committee. She even attended the 1996 Republican National Convention.

Like many ambitious twenty-somethings who hit Washington, she networked and created her own group, Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). If she was looking to create a media launching pad, it paid off.

She discussed creationism in schools on CNN and the sins of masturbation on an MTV sex special in 1996. But like the witchcraft statement, O'Donnell has taken too much criticism for her viewpoints on masturbation. To be fair, masturbation was a hot, controversial topic in the 1990s. In 1991, Pee-wee Herman was busted for masturbating in a movie theater. In December 1994, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was fired by President Clinton for promoting masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier sexual acts.

Author Martha Cornog wrote in The Journal of Sex Research in 2004 that, since the 1960s, only 30 books focusing on masturbation had been published. Guess which decade had the most? Yep -- the 1990s, when there were 13.

Talking about such a taboo topic greatly benefited O'Donnell, who became a popular pundit. She took her cheery smile and bouncy hair all the way to Maher's show, where she was the chaste Sandra Dee foil in the grungy sex-obsessed Clinton years.
Like any good grassroots activist, she kept her name and her cause in the headlines. In 1997, she wrote a Washington Post op-ed about witnessing at rock concerts. "Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks," she wrote. "Satanism is the religion of the '90s, I was told."

While Maher chides O'Donnell about her appearances on his show, he contends that he likes her and that she is sincere in her beliefs. He wants her to come on his HBO program. But O'Donnell told Hannity Tuesday night that she was only focusing on local media until after the election. But can a media junkie really ignore phone calls from big-time talk show producers? Doubtful.

After all, the biography attached to a 2003 article written by O'Donnell -- in which she tackles "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the women of Middle Earth -- describes her as "sassy, stubborn and sweet, and by those who disagree with her as 'the girl you hate to love.' This young woman who National Review Magazine says 'blends the flare of the Bible with Cosmopolitan,' shatters the stereotype about her generation."

If O'Donnell loses to Democrat opponent Chris Coons, she'll likely land her own television show. Maybe that's what she's been after all of these years.
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