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Republican candidate attacked over witchcraft claims

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 September 2010

New Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell dismisses comments she made more than a decade ago about having a "picnic on a satanic altar" while dabbling in witchcraft.

A conservative Christian, O'Donnell had claimed she "dabbled in witchcraft" during a 1999 interview on Politically Incorrect, a semi-satirical show hosted by comedian Bill Maher.

Mr Maher claimed he has 22 clips of her on the show and planned to play one a day until she agreed to appear on his show, Real Time.

"I dabbled in witchcraft I never joined a coven. I dabbled in witch craft a hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up," O'Donnell said in the clips posted on YouTube.

"One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn’t know it. I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then made a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar."

Last week Miss O'Donnell celebrated an historic victory in the Delaware primary after receiving the backing of former vice presidential candidate, and possible 2012 candidate, Sarah Palin - whom she shares an uncanny resemblance.

Despite cancelling a number of Sunday morning TV interviews, O'Donnell tried to make light of her comments, asking fellow Republicans at a GOP picnic on Sunday: "How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school?"

She joked: "There's been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now."

Carl Rove, the former GOP strategist and adviser to former president George Bush, suggested O'Donnell - who swept to victory with the help of Tea Party activists - could cost the Republicans a chance to retake a senate seat from the Democrats.

Controversial views
An outspoken conservative Christian, O'Donnell attracted considerable attention for her controversial pronouncements of the years, including statements to the effect that, proportionally, too much money was being spent on AIDS treatment and that condom distribution helped spread the disease.

She has also spoken out about cloning and stem-cell research, misquoting a study on the growth on human brain cells within mice to demonstrate that brains cells can be made from stem cells.

Appearing on The O'Reilly Factor in 2007 she claimed: "They are - they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment."

It has also emerged that Miss O'Donnell - who has criticised gays and championed traditional family values - has a sister who is a lesbian.

US politics is no stranger to colourful political characters and but the public airing of such views is unlikely to temper criticism of the Tea Party's right-wing agenda.

Her political, if not popular, early victory promises a interesting fight for Vice President Joe Biden's vacant senate seat in Delaware in November's election.

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