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Murphy Brown revisited

Family | Ten years after the speech that launched a thousand sneers, former veep prepares anniversary address to journalists

Issue: "House hunting," May 11, 2002

Elite media stars ridiculed Dan Quayle's Murphy Brown speech in 1992, and wouldn't let him forget it. After he was swept from office and the laughter died down, serious analysts examined Mr. Quayle's central point-single motherhood is bad for mothers and bad for children-and declared "Dan Quayle was right." Ten years later, it's Mr. Quayle who doesn't want to let journalists forget it.

For a May 9 appearance at the National Press Club, Mr. Quayle planned an anniversary speech, "Ten Years after Murphy Brown: A Mother's Day Progress Report on the American Family." The former vice president's original speech criticized the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown for presenting single motherhood as "just another lifestyle choice."

Liberals howled in 1992, but by April, 1993, the Atlantic Monthly agreed with Mr. Quayle and declared that single parenting "dramatically weakens and undermines society."

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By 1998, even actress Candace Bergen, who played the title character on Murphy Brown, was in the Quayle camp. She told the Los Angeles Times: "I agreed with all of it except his reference to the show, which he had not seen ... but the body of the speech was completely sound." She explained, "I had a very difficult time playing Murphy the first year after the baby, as a distant second priority. It was very distressing to me, and I couldn't get them to change it. Just hated it ... I didn't think it was a good message to be sending out."

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