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Inside Politics

DeLay angered by 'Law & Order' mention

• New ethics cloud over DeLay
Tom DeLay
Dick Wolf

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay reacted angrily Thursday to this week's episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" for what he called a "manipulation of my name" in the show.

The show's executive producer responded by accusing DeLay of trying to change "the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show."

The controversy centers around Wednesday's episode in which a police officer investigating a murder of a federal judge suggested putting out an all points bulletin for "somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."

"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 in a letter to NBC President Jeff Zucker.

"I can only assume last night's slur was in response to comments I have made in the past about the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary, as prescribed in our constitutional system of checks and balances."

DeLay has been an outspoken critic of what he calls "activist judges," recently saying Congress must take steps to rein in an "out-of-control judiciary."

Responding to DeLay's attack on "Law & Order," Dick Wolf, the show's executive producer and creator, made no apologies.

"Every week, approximately 100 million people see an episode of the branded 'Law & Order' series. Up until today, it was my impression that all of our viewers understood that these shows are works of fiction as is stated in each episode.

"But I do congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show."

Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, which broadcasts "Law & Order," said the line in question "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."

"This isolated piece of gritty 'cop talk' was neither a political comment nor an accusation. It's not unusual for L & O to mention real names in its fictional stories. We're confident in our viewers' ability to distinguish between the two."

DeLay has been at the center of a controversy over allegations he went on overseas trips that were improperly paid for by lobbyists. In addition, the House Ethics Committee admonished the majority leader three times in 2004 on separate issues.

On Thursday, a Texas judge found that the treasurer of a political committee founded by DeLay violated state campaign laws, although DeLay was not accused of wrongdoing in the ruling. (Full story)

DeLay did not mention specific examples in his letter. However, there have been two high-profile cases involving judicial security this year.

On Feb. 28, the mother and husband of federal Judge Joan Lefkow were slain by a disturbed person who once appeared in her courtroom. Lefkow has been pushing for more congressional funding to protect federal judges.

On March 11, a judge was killed at an Atlanta courthouse.

There was a storm of criticism against DeLay when he announced the need for Congress to more closely oversee the judiciary.

DeLay made angry comments March 31, the day Terri Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged woman, died -- two weeks after a court ordered her feeding tube removed at the request of her husband. The congressman argued that federal courts should have intervened to save her.

At the time, DeLay said, "We will look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president."

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