Aug 18, 2011

Christine "Not a Witch" O'Donnell Back in the News

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The former Senate candidate from Delaware whose campaign imploded on charges of witchery is making headlines again. And, once again, it's for trying to run from her own public statements. I guess it's somewhat understandable that Christine O'Donnell would be wary of reporters after the tempest in tea pot the Tea Party candidate inspired with inordinately silly comments she'd made to Bill Maher. But seeing O'Donnell walk out of a CNN interview makes me a cringe for a whole host of reasons.

I winced the other day when I noticed that her new book Troublemaker was published by my former employer St. Martin's Press. Well... it would hardly be the first completely crappy book the very prolific publisher threw out into the marketplace. Today I just find myself feeling bad for the publicist who has to handle an author who's sandbagging her media appearances. She'll get some mileage out of the last night's Piers Morgan debacle but the message that she will only do media appearances on her own terms won't go down well. She's just not that powerful. High profile celebrities have some leverage when it comes to picking and choosing between interviews and avoiding troublesome subjects. Michael Jackson, for instance, eschewed interviewers who would dare ask about his possible pedophilia and magazine editors who wanted his face on the cover complied. But O'Donnell is not the King of Pop and her refusal to answer questions about things in the very book she's promoting just makes her sound petulant and foolish.

The thing I found most interesting about her temper tantrum, though, was that the final straw was not questions about her bizarre references to witchcraft but about her current religious beliefs. Is opposition to gay marriage becoming the third rail of American politics? O'Donnell dodged all inquiry into her views on the issue. She would say only that it's "in the book" but she wouldn't talk about it what she says on the issue in the book. She then berates Morgan for not discussing the book. O'Donnell would only answer that she discusses her religious beliefs in the book which would seem to imply that her views on gay marriage are part of her religious construct. I have discussed at length what I think of the Biblical argument against homosexuality and gay marriage. It's just so much ludicrous cherry-picking. But no matter how you slice it, a former Senate candidate promoting a political book is in no position to refuse questions about a key issue in the current public policy debate.

It wasn't on the gay marriage question that Piers Morgan was rude or offensive. It was when he drudged up the debate over O'Donnell's comments on witchcraft. Like so much of the media, Morgan was far more insulting to Wiccans than to O'Donnell. And O'Donnell only indulged his ignorance.

Morgan played the now famous clip from Maher's Politically Incorrect:

A witch with a Satanic altar... The stupid. It hurts.

Next Morgan played the ad that arguably tanked her candidacy:

From there the interview degenerated.

MORGAN: You see, the weird thing to me watching those two clips is on the first clip, you seem like a fairly naive -- you don't me mind saying -- slightly silly young woman who is having a bit of fun about witchcraft.


MORGAN: In the second one, you look like a witch. You look really creepy.

O'DONNELL: I know.

MORGAN: And so ugly. I even started to believe you might be a witch when I saw this creepy commercial.

O'DONNELL: It was -- you know, as I write in the book, as soon as I saw that line, I said I don't want to do this. This is the wrong direction. What our campaign ads should be doing instead is highlighting who I am now, what my platform and position is, the reason why Democrats, independents and Republicans are getting behind my campaign, and we didn't go that route.

And we should have gone on the offensive and started to expose the many lies that my opponent was saying about his own record. But instead -- you know, I didn't listen to my gut. I tell that story and I relive it as embarrassing as it is to watch it.

But I do so, so that perhaps the reader can relate and might have confidence in their own gut because the mistake that I made was that, you know, it was my gut and the instincts of many disenfranchised voters in Delaware who got us through such a tremendous victory in the primary and then what did I do after we won the primary? I listened to the so-called experts who had been losing election after election.

So, again I try to tell that story so that the reader might have confidence going forward propelling the second American Revolution to listen to your gut and the experts aren't always experts.

Yes, that's right, Piers. Witches are "ugly." He went straight for the buffoonery that characterized most of the media during the initial controversy. If O'Donnell had just once stood up for the many practitioners of Wicca and other pagan and magickal traditions, I would have given her her props. But the poor thing is so ignorant she doesn't know the difference between witchcraft and the almost entirely fictitious construct of "Satanism." Instead she grudgingly did a commercial that completely marginalized practitioners of alternative faiths. What? It never occurred to O'Donnell or her campaign that some of the "yous" out there in TV land might just be practicing witches?

Practitioners of various forms of Wicca and other earth-based traditions are in every walk of life. Some of them even fight and die for this country.

Instead, with a few notable exceptions, the majority of the coverage of O'Donnell's strange admission fed into the stereotypes and misinformation about earth religions. O'Donnell is a remarkably poor spokesperson on the issue, even by dabbler standards. But if her performance on Piers Morgan's show last night is any indication she's not someone who should be speaking to the media on much of anything?

O'DONNELL: Well, don't you think as a host, if I say this is what I want to talk about, that's what we should address?

MORGAN: Not really, no. You're a politician.

That one Piers got absolutely right.

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