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Danny and Murphy: Real Life Sitcom

May 20, 1992

Undated (AP) _ ″MURPHY HAS A BABY ... QUAYLE HAS A COW″ headlined the Philadelphia Daily News. ″Quayle to Murphy Brown: YOU TRAMP 3/8″ blared the New York Daily News. ″DAN RAPS MURPHY’S FLAW,″ punned the Boston Herald.

At newsstands, on radio talk shows and around the water cooler Wednesday, Americans plunged into the nation’s latest domestic furor - Dan Quayle’s claim, in a speech on the Los Angeles riots, that television character Murphy Brown’s giving birth to a child outside wedlock mocks ″the importance of fathers.″

On ″Regis & Kathie Lee″ the syndicated TV hosts got into it, with Regis Philbin saying the vice president had a point and Kathie Lee Gifford asking what else Murphy could have done under the circumstances.

On WABC radio in New York, another host couple - Guardian Angels founders Curtis and Lisa Sliwa - found that callers to their show wanted to talk about nothing else.

″The phone was blown off the hook. Our call screener was going nuts,″ hooted Lisa. ″We haven’t had anything like this since Anita Hill and Judge Thomas,″ marveled Curtis.

That was all they agreed on. Murphy Brown, Curtis said, ″is setting the wrong example, like Bishop Casey.″

But Lisa asked what Quayle expected Murphy to do - ″Have an abortion?″ Anyway, she added, ″I’m not sure Dan understood Murphy Brown’s a fictional character.″

″Why is this rich guy telling us about parenting?″ asked a male caller. ″First they have nursemaids, then governesses, then they send the kids off to boarding school.″

By late morning, the Sliwas’ successor at the mike, Joy Behar, was sputtering ″I’m sick of this topic 3/8″

No one else seemed to be. As 38 million CBS viewers looked on Monday night, Murphy Brown - an unmarried television anchorwoman - gave birth to a baby boy.

On Tuesday, in a speech, Quayle said that ″Bearing babies irresponsibly is wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong.″

He continued: ″It doesn’t help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown - a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman - mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and then calling it just another ’lifestyle choice.‴

Reaction came swiftly. ″If he believes that a woman cannot adequately raise a child without a father, then he’d better make sure abortion remains safe and legal,″ said ″Murphy Brown″ producer Diane English. Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women said the vice president was claiming ″there’s something wrong with people raised by one parent.″

But columnist Carl Rowan, who is black, said the episode would have an ″undesirable impact″ on youth of all races: ″When widely watched sitcoms bore in on a devastating social problem, the producers ought to ask what purpose they have in mind other than getting high ratings. They ought to ask what messages they are sending to the young women of America.″

In Los Angeles, incoming Police Chief Willie Williams had the courage, or possibly the good sense, to admit he works too late to see ″Murphy Brown.″ But he added: ″We have to stop trying to find one organization or entity to blame the riots on.″

About the only person with nothing to say was the woman who plays Murphy Brown, Candice Bergen.

Her publicist, Allen Eichhorn, said the actress was on a flight Wednesday from New York to California. He said that when he told her on Tuesday night about Quayle’s remarks, she said, ″Oh really? ... OK, fine. Thank you.″

″I don’t think she cared to jump into the fray,″ he said.

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