Published September 19, 2010
Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell on Sunday chalked up her experimentation in sorcery to being a teenager, saying there's no magical explanation to her 1999 confession that she "dabbled into witchcraft."
Speaking to Republican picnic-goers, the insurgent Tea Party candidate said she didn't doing anything differently than lots of kids at that age.
"I was in high school, how many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school? But no, there's been no witchcraft since," she said, shrugging off her dalliances with the dark arts.
"Now let’s put that to rest and move on to what we’re going to do," she said.
O'Donnell's campaign insists the GOP nominee decided to attend church and a Republican Party picnic in Sussex County, Del., rather than appear on national news shows Sunday, even as it was forced to respond to a newly released video of O'Donnell speaking on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" show 11 years ago.
O'Donnell had been scheduled to appear on "Fox News Sunday" but canceled late Friday. CBS' "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer said Sunday he received an e-mail from O'Donnell's campaign denying that she backed out at the last minute from appearing on his show because of the tape released by comedian Bill Maher.
"'No, that is not the reason. We weren't aware that he had released this tape until yesterday afternoon,'" Schieffer said, reading the e-mail on his show.
"As for dabbling in witchcraft, whatever that is, her campaign spokesman said, 'Campaigns about what she did as a teen is hardly a worry to her or the people of Delaware,'" Schieffer said.
The response followed the release Friday night of the 1999 segment from Maher's show in which O'Donnell admitted to her host that she "dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven."
"I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do," she said.
Maher aired the clip Friday night on "Real Time with Bill Maher" and said he will release more clips of her until she appears on his show.
During the interview, O'Donnell, now 41, described a date with a witch. The set-up and context of the remarks were unclear.
"One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like that," she said, laughing in the clip.
"We went to a movie and then had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar," she said.
The clip follows a string of revelations that has put the nominee under scrutiny on both sides of the political aisle. They range from back tax payments to statements about sex, masturbation and lust that she made on MTV's "Sex in the '90s."
O'Donnell told talk show host Phil Donahue in 2002, "Condoms will not protect you from AIDS." While appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" in 2006, O'Donnell called condoms "anti-human."
The nominee has since said her views on sex have "matured" since her youth and that sexual behavior is a "private matter," adding that her role as a politician will be about the Constitution and not her personal views.
O'Donnell received about 65 percent of the vote in Sussex County, where the Republican Party picnic is being held. Sussex County played a major role in her winning the nomination over Republican opponent Rep. Mike Castle.
She now faces Democrat Chris Coons in the race to fill former Vice President Biden's former Senate seat. Polling shortly after Tuesday's election showed Coons in the lead.
But her come-from-behind surge to defeat Castle was seen as a marker of the strength of the Tea Party as well as the political power of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The latest remarks on witchcraft put O'Donnell, who has cast herself as a conservative with Christian values, in an awkward position.
Glen Urquhart, the GOP nominee for the House seat in Delaware, told Fox News that O'Donnell's comments are "unfortunate" but he will continue to support her candidacy.
"I obviously wish that Christine O'Donnell hadn't dabbled in witchcraft. I think she wishes she hadn't dabbled in witchcraft," he said.
"I know that she has committed to Christ," Urquhart said, adding, "I believe she has all the right policies for Delaware and the United States of America."
Karl Rove, the GOP strategist and former senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, indicated last week that her win wasn't helpful for Republicans trying to pick up the Delaware seat to win a GOP majority in the Senate.
But on Sunday, Rove said it's smart for O'Donnell to have canceled her Sunday show appearances.
"She shouldn't have accepted in the first place. But you know, she needs to talk to the people of Delaware. It's Delaware voters. It's not conservatives around the country who are going to determine her -- the outcome of this election," Rove told "Fox News Sunday."
Rove said O'Donnell has more than one issue in her past to explain and to declare them all untrue or to ignore them is "a legitimate campaign strategy" though perhaps not a winning one.
"It depends upon ... this wave of animosity towards President Obama in order to get elected," he said.
But O'Donnell can get past the focus on her personal history, Rove said.
"In southern Delaware, where there are a lot of church-going people, they're probably going to want to know what was that all about," Rove said of the witchcraft remarks. "And again, she said it on television when she went on the -- on the Bill Maher show. And I -- my view is she can't simply ignore it. She's got to deal with it and explain it and put it in its most sympathetic light and move on."