Murphy Brown had just aired its Season 4 finale in which Ms. Brown, an unmarried news anchor, gave birth to a baby boy.
Mr. Quayle said the character was “mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice.’”
The blowback from liberals was swift, and an early skirmish in the culture war was on. Critics of the administration said it was hypocritical to condemn both abortion and single motherhood. In a fumbled response to Mr. Quayle’s remarks, the White House “first applauded, then dithered, then beat a befuddled retreat,” The Times reported.
A White House spokesman criticized the “glorification of the life of an unwed mother” on the morning after the speech. But shortly after that, he praised the show for its “pro-life values.”
And that afternoon, President Bush, besieged by Murphy Brown questions at an appearance with the prime minister of Canada, threw up his hands in frustration.
“I don’t know that much about the show,” he said. ”I’ve told you, I don’t want any more questions about it.”
Murphy Brown was a divorced career woman in her 40s who had battled addictions to cigarettes and alcohol, decided to raise a child on her own and tried medical marijuana after learning she had breast cancer. Her fans saw her as an icon — an older, saltier, more modern version of Mary Tyler Moore.
Those fans may be happy to learn that Ms. Brown is coming back. The character “returns to a world of cable news, social media, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate,” CBS said in a statement on Wednesday.
This week, Ms. Bergen did not immediately return a request for a comment, nor did Diane English, the show’s creator and producer. But she had plenty to say at the time.
“If the Vice President thinks it’s disgraceful for an unmarried woman to bear a child,” Ms. English said, “and 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.”
There was no immediate response either from Mr. Quayle, who is perhaps better remembered for a gaffe he made about a month after his Murphy Brown comment: Telling an elementary school student that ‘potato’ is spelled with an ‘e’ at the end.
The Republicans, who had held the White House since President Reagan’s 1980 victory, lost that fall to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
In the context of Mr. Quayle’s May 19 speech, the mention of Murphy Brown reads almost like an afterthought with the distance of 26 years.
Mr. Quayle had spoken at length about “the Los Angeles riots” that erupted in late April, killing dozens of people. They were a reaction to the acquittals of four white police officers who had been captured on video severely beating Rodney King, a black taxi driver, the year before.
Dozens of people were killed. Properties were destroyed. A state of emergency was declared in California’s most populous city. When he took the stage at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, Mr. Quayle talked about poverty, crime, race and “family values” before pivoting to the hit television show.
“It doesn’t help matters when prime time T.V. has Murphy Brown,” he said.
At the Emmy Awards show in August, Ms. Bergen and Ms. English criticized Mr. Quayle’s comments. He fired back the next day: “They said that I believe single mothers and their children are not families. That is a lie. Winning an Emmy is not a license to lie. Hollywood doesn’t like our values.”
When a new season of Murphy Brown began in September 1992, Mr. Quayle was a good sport. He sent a card and a stuffed elephant to Ms. Bergen, and he sat down with a group of single mothers to watch an episode of the show. He said it was the first time he had seen it.
In the first episode of Season 5, the writers of Murphy Brown incorporated Mr. Quayle’s comments into the plot and poked fun at the politician.
“What planet is he on?” Ms. Brown, then a new mother, said to her friend Frank (Joe Regalbuto) after watching a video of the speech.
“Tomorrow he’s probably going to get his head stuck in his golf bag and you’ll be old news,” Frank said. “Murph, it’s Dan Quayle! Just forget about it!”
The line separating fiction from reality blurred again in the season’s second episode, in which the character Ms. Brown addressed Mr. Quayle, looking into real cameras on a fake news set.
“These are difficult times for our country, and in searching for the causes of our social ills we could choose to blame the media, or the Congress, or an administration that’s been in power for 12 years,” she said.
“Or we could blame me.”
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