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“I Am Not a Witch” is a catchphrase that stems from a political campaign advertisement for Christine O’Donnell, a Republican candidate who unsuccessfully ran for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in Delaware. The advertisement, which features the conservative Christian politician calmly denying allegations of ties to witchhood, was launched in October 2010 shortly after HBO political talk show host Bill Maher aired an old clip of O’Donnell stating she had dabbled in witchcraft.
Prior to her political affiliation with the Tea Party movement, Christine O’Donnell worked as a political commentator promoting conservative Christian values in a number of major news media outlets, including Bill Maher’s 1990’s late night talk show Politically Incorrect. During the 2010 special election to fill Vice President Joe Biden’s vacated Senate seat in Delaware, O’Donnell’s interviews from that time were brought back into the political spotlight by Maher on his HBO talk show Real Time, as he threatened to air one clip per episode until she appeared on his new show. On the September 17th, 2010 episode of Real Time, Maher selected a portion from an October 29th, 1999 episode of Politically Incorrect where O’Donnell admitted to dabbling in witchcraft while in high school (shown below, left). On October 4th, 2010, in effort to do damage control after backlash from that commentary, O’Donnell uploaded a simple ad (shown below, right) to her official YouTube channel, Christine4Senate, stating that she is not a witch and is a normal person, just like her constituents.
Between the airing of the Real Time episode and O’Donnell’s response video, several news sites discussed the 1999 footage including liberal blog ThinkProgress, ABC News and the Huffington Post. Two days after the show aired and before her ad went on YouTube, it was reported that O’Donnell initially laughed it off, saying she hadn’t participated in witchcraft since high school. However, as her quote continued to receive widespread coverage, O’Donnell’s campaign decided to follow up with an advertisement video, which opened with Christine O’Donnell stating “I’m not a witch.” Though it was meant to put an end to a political scandal, O’Donnell’s delivery of the line in her calm demeanor rendered the video quite exploitable to many viewers on YouTube. After her ad aired, the first wave of YouTube parodies began to surface on October 6th, 2010.
One featured a bearded man (shown below, above), using the “I’m You” tag line to describe himself. The second (shown below, above) was created by comedy duo Sean and Lorraine, which listed several other things O’Donnell was not. Throughout the month, parody videos were featured on the Huffington Post, BoingBoing, Buzzfeed, Adweek and CBS News. At the end of October, Social Times compiled a list of the 10 best parodies of the ad.
In addition to amateur parodies, the ad was auto-tuned by the Gregory Brothers (shown top left) and spoofed by Cassandra Peterson’s horror hostess character Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (shown top right).
On October 9th, 2010, Saturday Night Live parodied the ad as the cold open for their season premiere, with actress Kristin Wiig portraying the politician. After the show aired, O’Donnell tweeted that she enjoyed the parody and thought Wiig’s hair looked better than hers.
In August 2011, O’Donnell did an interview with CNN, in which she noted that the ad negatively affected her campaign, stating that it was an embarrassing mistake and she should have listened to her instinct, releasing an ad focusing on her positive assets.
Think Progress – Christine O’Donnell In Oct. 1999: ‘I Dabbled Into Witchcraft’
Huffington Post –
Huffington Post – Christine O’Donnell Jokes About Her Witchcraft Past
Los Angeles Times – Christine O’Donnell enjoyed the parody SNL did of her ’I’m Not a Witch’ ad
Huffington Post – Christine O’Donnell ’I’m You’ Ad Parodied, Winningly (VIDEO)