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Quayle: Ten years after Murphy Brown

Quayle: "The message was that ... fathers can go ahead and have children, but they don't have to raise the children."  

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ten years ago, then-Vice President Dan Quayle ignited a firestorm of controversy when he criticized Murphy Brown, the powerful, intelligent character in an eponymous sitcom, for having a child out of wedlock -- and without any father in the picture whatsoever.

Out of office since President George H. W. Bush administration's made way for President Clinton in January 1993, Quayle spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday about his decade-old comments and his continuing efforts to promote family values.

DAN QUAYLE: We have made a lot of progress on the issue I tried to address (in that speech). And the issue was not single motherhood: The issue was the absence of fathers.

As you recall, (in) that famous sound bite that is run over and over again, I talk about mocking the importance of fathers.

 Quayle takes on Murphy Brown
Ten years ago, Dan Quayle brought up sitcom character Murphy Brown in an address about family values. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

"It doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

And that's what I really didn't like about the show. There was no father. The message was that fathers need not be involved; fathers can just be irresponsible; fathers can go ahead and have children, but they don't have to raise the children.

Now looking back 10 years later, we have had a lot of fatherhood initiatives that have sprung up. I think of one -- the National Fatherhood Institute. ... Both George W. Bush and Al Gore spoke to it within the last few years.

The Million Man March that you had here in Washington, D.C. -- even though I find Louis Farrakhan to be a dangerous and violent individual by his rhetoric -- what they were talking about in that march (was) values for the men, (making them) better husbands, better fathers, better community leaders, more involved in the neighborhood. These are the types of things that we ought to talk about.

WOLF BLITZER: If you could redo that -- those sentences you said 10 years ago -- would you rephrase them?

QUAYLE: I don't think I'd rephrase it. You've got to realize that the speech was about a 35 to 40-minute speech. The subject was the poverty of values, the breakdown in the family.

If in fact you don't finish high school, you get married before 20 or you have children before 20, you have an 80 percent chance of living in poverty.

I was trying to put out as a challenge to families and to all people: (If you) stay in school, get married, wait until you're after 20 to start having children, you have less than a 5 percent chance of living in poverty.

Now, the sound bite was an 8-second deal in a 40-minute speech. What I find interesting, and I'm going to address this at the National Press Club, was the way the print media treated it vs. the electronic media.

The print media -- The Washington Post it was the lead story, and The New York Times it was above the fold, but Murphy Brown was in paragraph 10.

It was the electronic media that had this meltdown. Perhaps they felt I was attacking one of their own or whatever the cause may be. But in any event, it became a firestorm.

BLITZER: Do you have any problems with the current sitcom, "Friends"? The character Rachel is about to have a baby -- she is unmarried. There is a father though, in that program.

QUAYLE: We have won half the battle. The fact is if TV is going to portray someone having a child out of wedlock, at least they're going to have the father involved. And that's a very important step.

I'd just assume they not do this. But the fact that the father is there is a very responsible and a very positive message.

But let me say this. You take that character in "Friends," Jennifer Aniston. In her life, she is very happily married to Brad Pitt. The same thing with Candice Bergen, for that matter. At that time (10 years ago), she was very happily married to her husband (and) had a longtime, wonderful family.

... Some of these folks ... portray things on television that tend to trash traditional values, but they practice traditional values in their own personal lives. Maybe the motto is do as I do, not as I act. Because they have an entirely different lifestyle at home than what they portray on television.

BLITZER: Are you going to get back into politics? Do you want to run for office again?

QUAYLE: Well, I've learned over the years that you never say never. But Marilyn and I are really enjoying ourselves out in Phoenix, close to my mother.

I get to involve myself in politics when I want to. I still try to stay in close contact with the (Bush) administration and offer my private advice when asked. And I enjoy myself right now.

But who knows, I still consider myself a young man -- I'm only 55 -- so we'll see.




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