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NBC's Harry Smith Dredges Up Dan Quayle's 'Attack' on 'Murphy Brown' and 'Single Motherhood'

In an interview with actress Candice Bergen for Thursday's NBC Rock Center, correspondent Harry Smith brought up Bergen's long-running 90's sitcom, proclaiming: "Well you can't talk about Murphy Brown and not also say Dan Quayle....What Vice President Quayle said in a 1992 speech was an attack on the character Murphy Brown for glorifying single motherhood."

A portion of the speech played, with Quayle warning against, "Mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice." A sound bite followed of Bergen reacting in character on the CBS show: "What really defines a family is commitment, caring and love." Following the clips, Bergen happily told Smith: "Certainly Dan Quayle made the show number one for a few months. And when I won the Emmy that year, I thanked him for that."

While Smith and Bergen reminisced over her sticking it to the Republican vice president, a May 25 opinion piece in the Washington Post reflected back on the same incident and announced: "20 years later, it turns out Dan Quayle was right about Murphy Brown and unmarried moms."

In the article, Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, applauded Quayle's comments:

Twenty years later, Quayle's words seem less controversial than prophetic. The number of single parents in America has increased dramatically: The proportion of children born outside marriage has risen from roughly 30 percent in 1992 to 41 percent in 2009. For women under age 30, more than half of babies are born out of wedlock. A lifestyle once associated with poverty has become mainstream. The only group of parents for whom marriage continues to be the norm is the college-educated....

But in the end, Dan Quayle was right. Unless the media, parents and other influential leaders celebrate marriage as the best environment for raising children, the new trend — bringing up baby alone — may be irreversible.   

Following his interview with Bergen, Smith bragged to host Brian Williams about doing a cameo for the newsroom TV comedy: "It's 1991 and I followed in the footsteps of people like Walter Cronkite and Connie Chung and was asked to appear on Murphy Brown in an episode."

Williams observed of Smith's sit-down with Bergen: "It was clear you were spending time with a friend." Smith gushed: "You know, I've had the opportunity to get to know her and interview her many times over the years. And it really is a treasure to know that she is as confident and wonderful as she appeared in that interview."

Here is a portion of the June 14 interview:

10:22PM ET

(...)

HARRY SMITH: [In 1998] Bergen and producer Diane English delivered the hit TV comedy Murphy Brown.

CANDICE BERGEN [AS MURPHY BROWN]: Murphy Brown. I'm on TV.

SMITH: True to her lineage, Bergen knew how to deliver a punch line and bring down the house. It turns out the beautiful girl next door wasn't just a pretty face. The show ran for ten years.

BERGEN [AS BROWN]: Don't be ridiculous, Frank, I'm not nervous, I'm going to be a terrific mother with my own kid.

SMITH: Well you can't talk about Murphy Brown and not also say Dan Quayle.

BERGEN: No, you can't.

SMITH: No, you can't.

BERGEN: And now we've said it.

SMITH: What Vice President Quayle said in a 1992 speech was an attack on the character Murphy Brown for glorifying single motherhood.

DAN QUAYLE: Mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.

BERGEN [AS BROWN]: What really defines a family is commitment, caring and love.

BERGEN: Certainly Dan Quayle made the show number one for a few months. And when I won the Emmy that year, I thanked him for that.

SMITH: After her fifth win, Bergen asked the Television Academy not to nominate her anymore for the portrayal of the TV journalist.

(...)

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.