House Majority Leader Tom DeLay accused NBC Thursday of slurring his name by including an unflattering reference to him on the NBC police drama “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
DeLay’s name surfaced Wednesday night on the show’s season finale, which centered on the fictional slayings of two judges by suspected right-wing extremists.
In the episode, police are frustrated by a lack of clues, leading one officer, played by Kathryn Erbe, to quip, “Maybe we should put out an APB (all-points-bulletin) for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt.”
The Texas Republican complained about “the disturbing misuse of my name” in a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker (MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft).
“This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse,” DeLay wrote.
He went on to suggest the “slur” against him was intended as a jab at comments he had made about “the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary.”
NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly responded in a statement that the dialogue in question “was neither a political comment nor an accusation.”
“The script line involved an exasperated detective bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed,” Reilly said.
He added: “It’s not unusual for ‘Law & Order’ to mention real names in its fictional stories. We’re confident in our viewers’ ability to distinguish between the two.”
Ripped from the headlines stories
The show, which frequently incorporates stories and themes ripped from the headlines, aired weeks after a white supremacist was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to assassinate a federal judge whose husband and elderly mother were later slain by another man angry at the judge.
That judge, Joan Lefkow, appeared earlier this month before the Senate Judiciary Committee to rebuke politicians and other public figures who have used inflammatory language to criticize judicial decisions they disagreed with. She said such rhetoric encouraged violence against judges.
Some leading Republicans used harsh terms to condemn judges earlier this year after courts failed to intervene to save the life of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after her feeding tube was removed at her husband’s request but against her parents’ wishes.
At the time, DeLay said, “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”
Producer Dick Wolf, creator of the “Law & Order” franchise, took a swipe at DeLay in his own statement Thursday, saying, “I ... congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show.”
The flap came as ethics questions swirling around DeLay mounted with a Texas judge ruling Thursday that a political action committee formed by the congressman violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 in mostly corporate donations.
The show’s season finale drew 14.5 million viewers, but DeLay wasn’t one of them. An aide said he heard about the show through his wife, who learned of it from someone else who saw the episode.