Christine O’Donnell’s ‘Oxford’ Tutor Speaks Out: ‘Intelligent,’ ‘A Joy To Have’


When she attended a Phoenix Institute program in 2001, Christine O’Donnell was “a joy to have,” her former tutor says. Bruce W. Griffin is speaking out on his former student, and says that O’Donnell would “add intellectual and philosophical depth” to the United States Senate should she win in November.

O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for Senate in Delaware, has represented herself as attending Oxford University on at least one and potentially many more occasions.

Griffin, an instructor and not a professor, wrote a detailed blog item saying that O’Donnell’s thesis on cloning stood out in his mind as “one of the two best papers written for me that summer.”It’s a relevant topic given that O’Donnell defeated Rep. Mike Castle in last month’s Republican primary in part by telling evangelical voters he supported human cloning because he backs embryonic stem cell research. In addition to using the line on the campaign trail, O’Donnell supporters at phone banks read from a script provided by the Tea Party Express that pushed the cloning claim.

Griffin sent TPM his blog post detailing the three-week Phoenix Institute program focused on the “intellectual alternatives to the philosophical morass of postmodern moral relativism.” Their text: C.S. Lewis’ 1944 The Abolition of Man.

He said it was a summer job to do “a tutorial at Oxford on postmodernism and natural law.”

“Christine O’Donnell was a joy to have in the tutorials: intelligent, engaged, dynamic, good with questions and interested in ideas” he wrote.

Griffin, who once wrote O’Donnell a recommendation to an Ivy league grad school, wrote up a full endorsement that he considers the course equivalent to “any graduate school at any university.” From his posting:

The course we did that summer in Oxford is nearly a decade old, but the basic issues we addressed are eternal. Today, too many of the Republic’s leaders have abandoned the natural law tradition of the Declaration of Independence for a murky moral relativism–a relativism that is both destructive of democratic values and philosophically bankrupt.

Christine O’Donnell would bring to the US Senate a deepened commitment to the philosophical convictions of the Founding Fathers at a time when the philosophical bankruptcy of too many leaders is mirrored in the economic bankruptcy of the federal government. She would surely add intellectual and philosophical depth to a Senate that at this point in its history badly needs both.

The title of Griffin’s blog “Christine O’Donnell at Oxford” might suggest he believes that the Phoenix program was affiliated even though a Phoenix representative has told reporters that suggesting the two are linked is “misleading.”

Here’s how Griffin explains it:

Although we were never an Oxford University course, we drew heavily on the faculties of Oxford and Cambridge for our lectures. The organizers had put together a star-studded cast of lecturers, and partly as a result we drew students from Latin America, the US, and Europe.

In a followup interview, Griffin told TPM the Phoenix program was definitely not an Oxford course, but that it was more than just renting space at Oxford. “Our lecturers were drawn heavily from the Oxford faculty, and the opportunity to hear those lecturers was a critical reason for why our students came,” he said.

FEC records show Griffin donated in 2008 to the McCain campaign but does not appear to be politically involved. He attended Liberty University for his bachelors degree and earned a degree in Jewish Studies at Oxford. Griffin is a doctorate candidate in Classics at Lincoln College, Oxford and currently teaches theology at Ave Maria University in Nicaragua.

Read his posting in full here.

TPM did a brief interview with Griffin via email. He said he believes the press has long slanted coverage favorably toward Democrats and that there’s an attempt to paint O’Donnell as an “uneducated yahoo.”

“[T]he tendency to slot O’Donnell into this stereotype is both unfortunate and untrue,” he said. He also raised O’Donnell’s rival Chris Coons (D) and his Yale thesis, a conservative meme that David Weigel debunked here. Coons addressed the “bearded Marxist” line from his thesis during his first debate with O’Donnell.

Griffin said the old video clips of O’Donnell are “irrelevant” and seem to take on an anti-Catholic subtext.

“Her statements on homosexuality and masturbation don’t seem to differ in any respect from the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Griffin said. “I’d be sorry to think that acceptance of those beliefs was a legitimate cause for scorn and ridicule in a political campaign.”

He said Irish Catholics have long been discriminated against and added, “As of 2010, the number of African-Americans to become president and the number of Irish Catholics to become president is exactly the same: one.”

Ed. note: This post was edited after publication

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