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October 20th, 2010
10:45 AM ET
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Siara Delyn

    Did you catch the part where Ms. O'Donnell proved her qualifications by stating that she had a "graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute in constitutional government". It turned out that Claremont Institute is a Republican think tank and her fellowship lasted seven days. I suppose no Republicans have any problem with this at all.

    Okay folks, say I was going to do surgery on you and I assured you that I'd had a graduate fellowship in surgery from Institute X. You find out that Institute X is a business that sells surgical equipment and my fellowship lasted A WEEK. Would you let me operate on you?

    By the logic some people are using here, they would. Hey guys, that doesn't speak well for your intelligence.

    October 21, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  2. Dierdre Hep

    The fact that this woman, when asked to name a Supreme Court decision, that she favors or disfavors, and she could not think of one, confirms what we are dealing with. Come on you are running for a political position in the government of this country, and you are not prepared to answer basic questions, on the cuff. Where did this woman go to school. I really, want to believe, we(Americans) are more intelligent than that.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:07 am |
  3. Dina Hep

    I watched the debate with Ms. O'Donnell and Mr. Coons, and was for the first time really terrified and fearful on the direction of our country. This woman has no shame. But it came as no surprise, since she is from the Sarah Palin camp. These people are not only ignorant and racist, but blatant with their unintelligible rhetoric. I appreciate your forum Anderson, I watch everyday. Keep them honest. Stay on them. In addition, the fact that they refuse to answer any questions, regarding their stance on any real issues, well I rest my case. They are only interest in blame, blame, blame. The old saying goes, "empty wagons make a lot of noise". How true it is.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:48 am |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    Even the SCOTUS has had problems defining precisely what the constitution means in certain areas but there is background proof of the founding fathers intent in the 1st amendment of separating church and state.
    For a tea partier it is not a question in my mind of not knowing the constitutional separation but of a desire for it not to be separate so that Roe vs Wade and gay rights become defeatable. Along with other changes they would push in the 14th and 17th amendments.
    Thats why I oppose any candidate for whatever position they are seeking in this election cycle. No way they get my vote. I will vote against them even if the other candidate was not to my liking either.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  5. Derrick

    Mr Cooper,
    I was extremely impressed with your discussion of this incident on your show Tuesday. You covered both the justification of her actions as well as the underlying meaning of what was said. I find it disheartening to see so many only look to defend a small error that is only actually a smoke screen for the glaring mistakes behind. Constitutional expert? Hardly. I find it funny how Phille wonders how President Obama would do. If you remember, Palin had great fun making fun of the President because he is a constitutional lawyer and professor. From Harvard, not from a 7 day course. He could tell you everything backwards and forwards. Wow, how soon people forget....

    October 21, 2010 at 1:53 am |
  6. Lionel Lopez

    Thank you Mr. Anderson for calling out this candidate. We need journalism to step up and fulfill their duty to the public, as you do. This duty is to provide a fact-based, informed analysis of the news.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:09 am |
  7. Philip

    Dear Everyone who supports O' Donnell:

    The Constitution is a very alive and dynamic document. Over the years, Supreme Courts have determined how we interpret it. Not only does the first sentence say the government won't force a religion, but the Supreme Court has ruled over the years what "separation of church and state" actually means.

    Therefore, with a little knowledge of law and common sense we can conclude something:
    1) O'Donnell says the literal phrase does not exist in the 1st amendment, in which case she is not saying anything at all, due to what I just said above.

    2) O'Donnell doesnt know that 1st amendment says to separate church and state.

    In either case, what O'Donnell sayd makes no sense

    October 20, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  8. Clark

    What's more scary. The fact this lady is even seriously being considered for the Senate or there's people here defending her idiocy. Birds of a feather.

    Also, Obama actually is a Constitutional expert with credentials, versus O'Donnel who more or less went to a 7 day conference and calls it a "Graduate Fellowship".

    October 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  9. Kim

    Gees, peas, Louise ! 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists. Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause were mentioned.The metaphor intended and US Supreme Court interpreted seperation of church and State.Religion and Government stay seperate and the Supreme Court has not always fully embrassed the principle. Federal Government in Public Education and really under the 14th Amendment they have no business in it other than they must prohibit state and local discrimination. Stop closing our American Public School buildings under Pl 107-110 NCLB an under funded law and now on top of that the great recession.Hang in there O'Donnell !

    October 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  10. Phillie

    No, Mr. Cooper, "Serparation of church and state" defines a secular government, and the First Amendment establishes a government without a singular religion. HUGE difference not articulated either becuase of your bias or ignorance. C. O'Donnell was correct and not just "technically correct."

    She should have known the other Amendments however. I wonder how B. Obama would do on the spot? Hopefully better considering he has already been elected. Perhaps politicians should have to pass a test before running for office? I would be in favor of that. Perhaps "news" anchors should have to pass the same test.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  11. carole

    How desperate are the people in this country that they would elect O'Donnell to do anything besides scrub a doggone toilet? She is an embarrassment to this country's political system. She and Sarah Palin together only make up half a brain. It's people like ODonnell and Palin who will make me RUN to the polls! I don't know how any Democrat can justify not voting after seeing those two speak. I don't know how any Independent can vote for anyone those two endorse. Holy Cow! It's scary, truly scary!

    October 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  12. DH almighty

    Is this the type of talent that is being offered up for high public office in this land? Is this what the Republican war chest produces as a candidate?
    Has runing for office become some sort of reality show for the good looking yet short on intellect.

    The news piece clearly demonstrates that she is and was clearly out of her league when she sat down in this type of forum (Junior college level intellectual discussion of constitutional law, not church mom takes on law school). Much like Palin, she does not likely even possess the skills to know when she better hit the books before entering the national arena. These type of individuals merely reinforce the dangerous prospect that there is a reality show celebrity opportunity situation now and that 5 minutes of fame could likely trump any absence of intellect.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Kevin

    Coons clearly knew what he was talking about. O'Donnell clearly did not.

    He had a point. She clearly did not.

    He has an education. She clearly does not.

    Coons, FTW.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  14. Boomer in Mo

    Sigh. We might as well laugh at what Congress will become once the Tea Party takes it over. Remember, it will only last for two years in the House and the voters can correct their mistake. The Senate will take longer to fix but its a total mess right now anyway.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Jay

    You have to love the liberal machine here, even quoting Jefferson! O'Donnell was making a point and yes our 8th graders have been taught incorrectly–the theory has been created by the courts not Jefferson and founding fathers. If you want to quote them consider all their words not just the ones that suit you. Jefferson expanded on his thoughts, as well as other framers, on numerous occassions and the building a wall of seperation comment was intended toward the government not restricting religion of anyone and not creating ANY burdens that would disallow persons from expressing their beliefs. Courts in this country have over time and in the past declared that blacks are less than whites, that native americans were not humans and a number of other facts that we all now should be ashamed of and in each case those decisions by the courts that we hold somehow in esteem (as if they are not political by nature themselves) have reversed themselves on every major social issue of our history. Give them time and they too will reverse this decision and seriers of affirmations made to support a liberal "I am Equal to God" agenda.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  16. jaimehlers

    One would think that someone who has seriously studied the Constitution would not make such a fuss about the separation of church and state. The exact words are nothing more than a technicality; the point of them is that the government will not make laws benefiting any particular sect, church, or whatever (or even a group of related sects, churches, or whatever), but shall also not interfere in the free exercise of religion.

    Whatever nitpicking one does about the words, that is a tacit separation between church and state. For Christine O'Donnell to be running for Senate and yet to not understand that fundamental principle tells me that she is merely giving lip service to the Constitution. Do we really need a senator who can't be bothered to at least get a basic understanding of what's covered by the Constitution?

    October 20, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  17. Colin M

    You can quote Jefferson all you'd like, but you can't ignore his intent, or the intent of the founding fathers. This was done to prevent another Church of England where the law said you had to belong to the government's church. Period. That is it. That is what the law intended. Anything else, and you infringe on the part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

    As for the laughs because even the audience was smarter than her, this is disturbing. Battles over this issue have occurred in the court for decades. It's interpretation has been stretched and boundary lines blurred. No one should be mocking anyone for pointing out that the Constitution does not expressly establish a wall between church and state. Had it done so, and defined the exact parameters of that law, there wouldn't be court battles over the interpretation. A typical liberal reaction is to mock and insult anyone they don't agree with, instead of respecting someone's point of view. I can certainly understand why some interpret the first amendment the way they do. I don't agree with them, but I don't mock them either.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  18. Carol

    Thank you Siera.
    What scares me most is not so much that this woman is totally DUMB, but so many people (including several on this board) are willing to give her a "pass." (Did any of you note the audience laughing AT her in disbelief?)

    This isn't a "vocabulary test," and I don't think the wording of the First Amendment is even particularly "nuanced." This is about a seat in the United States Senate-and people are giving credence to this ignorant opportunist?

    Oh, and Christine (Let's just call her "Chrissy") is not only a Constitutional Scholar, she's also a Biologist. I mean, doesn't every educated Biologist KNOW that Darwin said monkeys were going to "turn into humans?"

    Get a grip folks. My 14 year old could slay this woman in a debate.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  19. Stephen S.

    I'm quite amused at the literal vs. interpreted argument of whether or not separation of church and state. It parallels the argument, in many cases, of literal vs. interpreted parables from the bible.

    Also, just to be nitpicky, Roman Catholicism was never a state religion in Russia – it was Russian Orthodoxy until the October revolution.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  20. Squealy

    Did you actually look at the video? Anderson conceded that she was literally correct in that the exact phrase is not in there. But, the MEANING of the phrase that IS in there is just as important if not more so. Basically, what we have here is conservative Christian right wingers who nit-pic this point simply because they are looking for the loophole that will allow them to force this country to abide by Christian tenets, as they erroneously believe that was the intent of the forefathers.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  21. Robert

    The claim that Christine O'Donnell was "technically right" that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution neglects to address the most serious indictment of her blatant ignorance about the Constitution.

    In the unedited video of this exchange, after Ms. O'Donnell asks whether the above phrase is in the Constitution, Mr. Coons recites the establishment clause to her almost verbatim, stating, "the government shall make no establishment of religion". To this O'Donnell asks, "That's in the first amendment?"

    That question, most notably, is the unbelievably ignorant part of this exchange that is so damning. Almost anyone that has read the Constitution would be able to place this famous phrase, widely known as the establishment clause, as being in the text of the Constitution, much like, "we the people" or "more perfect union".

    The fact that Christine O'Donnell is aware that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the document, does not excuse the fact that she does not know that the phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion" is in the Constitution.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  22. Brett

    I would have to agree with Anderson Cooper. If we have someone running for public office whose driving principle from the constitution, then I would expect her to have an understanding of that document. Particularly the items such as the 14th amendment to which her party is advocating against.

    I don't think its a huge gaffe, but something to hold her feet to fire and say what exactly is her understanding of it and is it true to her rhetoric?

    October 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  23. thomas

    delyn: jefferson gave an opinion just like every one here. that does nat make an addition to the admendment. as you can see 6 people read it six waysthat does make her wrong

    October 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  24. Cyrus

    Colin, if the language of a law is a bit murky you are supposed to look at the legislative history and purpose of the document to interpret what it means; such as a letter of Jefferson's that used the phrase "wall of seperation between church and state" which led to the short-hand of the establishment cluase. The power to interpret was given to the Supreme Court, and in a number of opinions they have found that there must be a seperation between church and state.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  25. Sandy D.

    Christine ODonnell is Dangerous for America! She isn't ignorant so much as she is delusional. Technically the phrase separation of church and state is not in the constitution however the intent of the language in the first amendment is just that. This clarified by President Thomas Jefferson. Had Christine O'Donnell just clarified that point, then she would have been fine. But as usual she didn't. Because she truly did not know that is the intent of that part of the amendment. What worries me about Christine Odonnell is that she does not hold herself accountable for her words or actions. She still avoids any questions about her "controversial" use of campaign funds, or her stance on issues such as Iran, Afghanastan etc. She does not offer any solutions to any of the important matters that are affecting america today. Healthcare, Education, the Economy and Human Rights for Gay Citizens etc. She, like her endorser Sarah Palin, spread fear and ignorance. They offer no solutions as to what we should do. Rather only pick apart what is being done. I want to know what solutions do they have! We would be far better as a country to turn the volume to mute when Christine O Donnell and Sarah Palin speak. They don't spread solutions, they spread ignorance.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  26. Siara Delyn

    The spectacle of Republicans frantically trying to gloss over the fact that their "Constitution-loving" candidate doesn't know what most of us learned about the Constitution in 8th grade speaks for itself.

    For what it's worth, Jefferson clarified his take on the relationship between church and state in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association dated January 1, 1802. Here's what he said:

    "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

    Repeat: "thus building a wall of separation between church and state"

    Repeat again: "thus building a wall of separation between church and state".

    The letter is on file in the Library of Congress.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  27. john1syd

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." It was common practice that governments in teh world would establish a State Church. Russia had Roman Catholosism, England had the Church of England and so on. When America was founded one of the principles was that the people had the right to serve God without the Government telling them what to do and how to worship. Freedom of Religion and the practice there of. All the first Amendment says is that the Government cannot establish a government sponsored religion and force it on people and cannot force people into a particular religion. We have the right to practice it our way. When you get down toit the government is to stay out of our lives. It's job is to protect us from outside invaders and State terany. We have allowed them to become more than they were designed for.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  28. DH almighty

    This report is not an outrage.
    This is the typical theist argument of "where does it say "separation of church and state?" The religious right can only keep Minabirding "Where does it say...?"
    much like the religious right claiming that the teaching of evolution in the schools is being taught as fact and not as theory. In order to have a theory it must be based on fact, and to contradict that theory or say that it is wrong it you must have a better theory based on the facts with which to shoot it down. If I hear one more person say "where does it say separation of church and state" I am going to hold a public which burning in honor. She is another dilitant running for office someone that is driven by the limelight more than Jeffersonian principles.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  29. DH almighty

    Would the spirit of Thomas Jefferson please appear and scare people like Christine O'Donnell from running for any office greater than dog catcher!!
    This is pathedic, there are certainly much smarter women out there that might be willing to run for public office?

    Our republic is in some pretty deep crap when I have to be subjected to this....

    October 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  30. Paul Ernest Show, Nashville

    Does this lady wants to be taking serious? Even young men and women in the crowd were laughing at her. She knew what she meant and what she meant is that she does not know the constitution expressly wants religion and the state to be separated. Even elementary school kids know this theory. There's a big difference between being an activist and wanting to go to Washington and make laws. You need meaningful knowledge to make laws.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  31. the Consitution according to Anderson

    Please be the journalist you claim to be. While you say O'Donnel got it technically right that the separation of church and state is not in the constitution, you blast her to being correct and twist your story to make it appear she is wrong! Applying your own principle, you should not be a journalist because you just about got everything wrong. The law is based on technicality, and if O'Donnel is technically correct, then Coons is legally wrong and is the one to be admonished for incorrectly stating what the First Amendment stands for. As for you, you probably agreed with the argument "it depends on what "is" is" – again, a technicality.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  32. Matthew Neal

    This report is an outrage. She clearly meant that the WORDS "separation of church and state" are not in the constitution. They are NOT. You may feel that this is a bad argument against modern notions of Church/State separation, but it is a well known point that social conservatives make and does not indicate stupidity r a "major gaffe". There are real issues here for originalist interpreters of he constitution. This is a very superficial analysis clearly motivated by rank bias.

    I agree that she is not bright enough for the job, but please let's think before piling on. Conservative women aren't stupid by definition, you need to actually analyze what they say.

    It's to late though. The bad reporting is out there and no one will bother to actually think about it.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  33. Colin M

    Sorry, but she's right and he's wrong. The phrase separation of church and state does not appear anywhere in the constitution. Not only that, the founding fathers had no problem with religious practices occuring in government (ie praying before congressional sessions). The part everyone forgets is the part of the first amendment that says "nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof". This means, quite simply, any law or policy prohibiting anyone, elected official or otherwise, from any religious practice (praying in a classroom for example) is unconstitutional. No one should be forced to practice any religion, but they don't have the right to say someone else can't. This is where the battle is. There is no wall. Instead, it's a two-way street. The battle happens when they intersect, whereas if we'd be more tolerant of each others' beliefs, there would be no battle at all.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  34. mfstout

    It's a dreadful time in our country's history when someone running for the U.S. Senate knows so little about the law, our Constitution or the people who live freely because of it. Her candidacy is a disgrace, only exceeded by those who blindly support her. She wears her ignorance as if it were a badge of honor.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  35. peg

    CNN you have made the biggest Gaff!

    So bias and ignorant

    October 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  36. Cora Judd

    To say she "blanks" on the First Amendment is too kind. To "blank" on a thing is to have the information but be unable to access it under pressure. O'Donnell clearly didn't/doesn't have this information.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  37. Goewey

    The country is going to hell in a hand basket. That an such an ignorant person is running for office makes me VERY concerned about where the US is headed. If the likes of Christine O'Donnell can get elected to office here – I will retire to Bedlam (or perhaps – move to France)

    October 20, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  38. rkm63

    Christine was right! Separation of Church and State is not in the U.S. Constitution. Read it, Anderson! Did you also mention on your broadcast that the bearded marxist was unable to name the 5 freedoms in the 1st Amendment? I certainly hope you did.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  39. Kathie, US Virgin Islands

    Dear Mr. Cooper;
    I have been watching your nightly program covering the various candidates for office with growing alarm. I couldn't help but wonder how that many people could be so...well....dumb. Last evening's first amendment debacle finally brought some clarity! I am now quite sure that at the end of this election cycle you will have Chevy Chase in the studio saying: "Live, from New York, It's Saturday Night" One can only hope.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:34 am |