Norman Lear on ‘Scandal’ Abortion Episode: ‘They Gave Us An Adult Moment’

scandal abortion storyline
Courtesy of ABC

Legendary producer Norman Lear had high praise for the latest “Scandal” episode in which Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has an abortion, calling it an “adult moment, and it was nothing more or less.”

“And it was so well done. It is a helluva show,” Lear told Variety.

Lear was the creator of “Maude,” which in 1972 featured a two-part episode in which Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur) decides to go through with an abortion.

The episode, he said, initially didn’t get much of a reaction at all. It wasn’t until the show was rerun that the religious right took notice.

“And then they laid down in front of Mr. Paley’s car in New York,” he said, referring to William S. Paley, the founder of CBS. “They laid down in front of my car in L.A., because they were ready. They knew it was coming.” Still, about 65 million people tuned in to the rebroadcast.

“The important thing to me is the American people are far wiser of heart and spirit than they are given credit for,” he said. “Because when it went on the air, maybe there were a few letters that complained, but there was no organized effort to make a crime of it.”

When an effort was launched to sell the show into syndication, some stations balked. But Lear asked Betty Ford, who called herself “Maude’s Number One Fan,” to attend a party to woo station executives. She did, and the show began selling much better.

“For me, the question of abortion was proved when we did that episode,” Lear said. “Before the religious right had a chance to organize a protest or complaint, America swallowed it. It was not that big of a deal. It was nothing they didn’t hear about or talk about. Or you didn’t learn in any neighborhood in America.”

While there has been harsh criticism coming from the religious right over the “Scandal” episode, advertisers didn’t pull their spots and the network didn’t apologize. He called creator Shonda Rhimes brilliant” and Washington a “sensational actress.”

Asked whether there were still any issues, like abortion, that are the third rail for primetime TV, Lear suggested that the reaction was telling. If the response to criticism is, “You have the right to feel that way, bless you, but we’re moving on,” he says, “it’s a further sign we’re growing up.”


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  1. Claudia says:

    So only the religious people found this episode insensitive? How naively wrong you are

  2. Joy says:

    Despicable and shameful episode. I hope this crap is off the air soon. An embarrassment.

  3. Dunstan says:

    I’m glad to see the usual right-wing trolls blathering on and on over an episode of a TV show. Pathetic.

    • Margeret Daw says:

      So according to “Dunstan,” who apparently speaks for all democrats, if you’re a democrat you are all for killing babies on TV while a Christmas song plays, and if you are republican you are against killing babies on TV while Christmas music plays. Got it. (Wow)

    • Luther says:

      And yet another left-wing knucklehead who thinks its fine for children to see abortions on TV, and calls it “progress.” Pathetic.

  4. Prolifemama says:

    The way viewers “felt” about this episode has little to do with the reality of what abortion does to a living pre-born human being, to her/his mother, father, grandparents – to our collective conscience.

    Public opinion may drive the bus, but passengers exercise their freedom to climb aboard, or walk. Legal abortion will not remain the law of the land, just as slavery did not.

    For now, I’ll walk.

  5. Mitchem says:

    As pathetic and immoral as TV can get sometimes, this fiasco has to be one of the worst examples of “TV” ever shown. To actually have an abortion playing to Christmas music is complete bullshit and I hope this beckons the decline of all things Shondra Rhimes. She has clearly lost it and is desperate.

  6. sassyjay says:

    An abortion to “Silent Night/Holy Night” is a new low, even for Hollywood. Yes keep telling yourself you are brave.

  7. Elisabeth B says:

    It was sickening and I hope the ratings drop next week to the point that this show goes into a cancellation death spiral.

  8. Alex says:

    Yo Norm! They did it to get an easy EMMY. This stunt will get the show and likely this episode plenty of nominations this awards season. They did this to get the entertainment press to write story’s about how brave they are and draw the attention of all those EMMY voters. Why don’t you now go to the “Peoples Choice Awards” website and spend to rest of the day voting for the show over and over again.

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