One thing we know is true: Christine O’Donnell was a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute in 2002. The rest, as we’ve closely chronicled, is all a bit fuzzy.
But TPM just spoke with a Claremont official who reviewed O’Donnell’s 2002 application file. Ryan Williams, who oversees the Lincoln Fellowship program, told us that O’Donnell lists a certificate from Oxford University on her resume. “She did have a line about Oxford,” he said as he looked at her file, which also included an essay and letters of recommendation.
Williams told us the item on O’Donnell’s resume reads:
Oxford University, Oxford, UK Certificate awarded Summer 2001
But O’Donnell did not attend Oxford. She received a certificate from a summer seminar program called the Phoenix Institute, which rented space at Oxford. A Phoenix spokesman told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent the use of Oxford was “misleading.”
Williams said there is a subtitle in a smaller font listing the program in full as the Phoenix Institute Summer Program: “Post Modernism in the New Millennium.”
Sargent reported that Chris Fletcher, who oversaw the course O’Donnell took, said the course wasn’t overseen by Oxford at all.
“We never represented it as a course run by Oxford University,” Fletcher told Sargent.
Before now, it was unclear if O’Donnell had really been saying she’d attended Oxford, since she disputed the LinkedIn profile which used the school’s name and her campaign explained the program she had attended. Earlier today, a ZoomInfo profile surfaced with the same term. But Claremont’s review of her application while on the phone with TPM makes crystal clear the Oxford claim comes from O’Donnell.
The resume O’Donnell submitted to Claremont also lists under education Fairleigh University, although it does not say whether she received a degree. It just lists the years she attended and her major of English and Communications. However, O’Donnell’s bio on the 2002 Lincoln Fellows site states that she was a “graduate” of Fairleigh even though she only received her diploma on Sept. 1 this year because of outstanding debt she owed the university.
The fellowship is an intensive one-week program with seminars and training that “places special emphasis on the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln.” From their site:
During their stay, Lincoln fellows meet with the Claremont Institute’s Senior Fellows and other distinguished visiting scholars to study American politics and political thought. In intensive daily seminars and relaxed evening symposia, fellows discuss a wide selection of great American readings. Topics of study and discussion include the Founding, the Civil War, the Progressive Era, the Great Society, and the enduring modern disputes between liberalism and conservatism. Fellows will also meet editors and writers of our flagship publication, the Claremont Review of Books.
Williams, who did not run the program in 2002, said that fellows are required to send transcripts to apply, though that sometimes is waived if the candidate is exceptional or comes highly recommended.
“Our normal policy is not to admit anybody without a bachelors degree. Christine would be the first,” Williams said as he grabbed O’Donnell’s file to check it out.
But in 2002, none of the candidates were required to submit transcripts or proof of graduating. A resume was accepted instead.
Williams added that it’s been bizarre to see Claremont’s name in the news. He said they are a conservative think tank but are non-partisan and do not back candidates. He would not share the contents of her essay or her letters of recommendation.
The O’Donnell campaign did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Ed. note: This post was updated after publication.