Source: The city of Baltimore hires Judy Smith, inspiration for Olivia Pope on TV's "Scandal"
City leaders have faced stark criticism over handling of the death of Freddie Gray
A communications expert, Smith is a "fixer" and no stranger to turning around perceptions
Judy Smith, the crisis consultant who inspired the character Olivia Pope on the hit TV drama “Scandal,” has been hired by the city of Baltimore, a source familiar with the arrangement said.
Officials, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, have faced pointed criticism after the death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray, particularly when protests turned violent Monday.
Gray was injured while in police custody and died a week later.
Communications expert Smith, known as a “fixer,” is no stranger to turning around perceptions. She’s worked with former Washington Mayor Marion Barry during a drug scandal, ex-Sen. Larry Craig after a sex sting and celebrity chef Paula Deen when she was accused of racism.
Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal,” based Pope’s character on the polished and connected Smith – throwing in lots of sex, familial drama and even torture for good measure.
Smith is a co-executive producer and technical adviser to the show.
A recent “Scandal” storyline dramatized the growing national outrage over the death of unarmed African-American men in police custody. In a fourth season episode titled “The Lawn Chair,” actor Courtney B. Vance portrays a father who arms himself with a shotgun and refuses to leave the body of his son, who was shot by police, until justice is served.
The episode resonated with viewers who said it helped keep the idea that black lives matter in the public conscience after a string of officer-involved deaths without any charges being filed, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.
“Some people called me and said ‘I’m still crying over it,’ ” Vance told People magazine. “If nothing else, it will hopefully keep the dialogue open, which was one of the tragic things about Ferguson and other situations. Let it go to trial. Let’s talk it out. When you change that process, people don’t get the chance to hear it all and flesh it out.”
While many of those deaths have not been prosecuted, Marilyn Mosby, state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore, announced Friday that six police officers had been charged in relation to Gray’s death, which was the result of a spinal-cord injury and has been ruled a homicide.
The city police union’s president has said none of the officers were responsible for Gray’s death.
Smith’s role in managing the crisis isn’t immediately clear, but the former assistant U.S. attorney and deputy press secretary in George H.W. Bush’s White House is clearly familiar with the inner workings of government.
A source said Smith was in Baltimore on Friday.
CNN’s Joe Johns contributed to this report.