Murphy Brown Recap: The Enemy of the Free Press

In "Beat the Press", attacks on the media by President Donald Trump impact Murphy's reporting, and her personal life.

Murphy Brown Addresses the Real Consequences of A Leader Who Endorses Violence Against the Media When One of Their Own is Injured in the Line of Journalistic Duty.

Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) gets a special mention by the President himself at a rally that Frank (Joe Regalbuto) is covering in person. Murphy turns it off in disgust, just as Trump incites violence against her coworker. Unbeknownst to her, Frank is attacked while covering the event.

“I Guess When You Major in Journalism These Days You Have To Minor In Kickboxing”

This kind of egging on by the commander in chief is not the fictional outrageousness of a television sit-com. Donald Trump has celebrated violence against journalists throughout his presidency. After a reporter was attacked by a political candidate in Montana, Trump said at a rally less than 48 hours later, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.” Later, that same candidate who slammed the reporter to the ground was elected into office.

Murphy Brown calls out the possibility of what this type of reporting environment could mean for those who work in it. There already have been real and violent consequences to negative comments about the government and political figures. Although not on American soil, the recent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia proves it is a very dangerous time to be a reporter — especially if you have anything negative to say about those in charge. 

Murphy feels an enormous amount of guilt for what she said on air, and blames herself for drawing attention to him with her negative comments on the show. Meanwhile, Corky (Faith Ford) has taken her safety as a reporter into her own hands. She shows up at the office with a small silver pistol in her bag.

Avery (Jake McDorman) is processing what happened through his work. As a star correspondent for a conservative network, he wants to go back into the fray and interview those who attacked Frank about why they did what they did. But when he pushes too hard on interviewees, he winds up with a black eye to match Frank’s. 

“What If This Is The New Normal?”

In a segment on rising homelessness, Murphy invites a conservative talking head on the show to discuss the issue. He claims that perhaps people would rather “live off the grid,” as rationale for the increasing number of folks living on the street. Rather than laying into such an erroneous claim classic Murphy style, she pulls punches, afraid of the consequences for her friends and her son.

This fear, the fear of calling out a lie when it’s heard, the anxiety about upsetting the other side (because the opposition is so violent) is surely a daily reality for all journalists in this political environment. And this insightful episode makes it clear that attacks on a free press prevent the dissemination of the truth. It’s hard to tell the truth when you’re afraid of becoming a target.

Miles (Grant Shaud) is receiving threatening phone calls, so he asks Corky and her pistol to walk him out to his car. Is this the future for American journalists? Carrying weapons to defend their constitutional right to free speech?

Just a few years ago an episode where a series regular’s family is deported, or a brutal tale about violence against the press could have been segmented in a stylized, dystopian sit-com. But these fictional events are not only rooted in reality — they are ripped from the headlines. Things like this are happening every day in America, and Murphy Brown is holding up the mirror.

Murphy Brown continues Thursday nights at 9:30 ET on CBS.

Photos and video credit courtesy of CBS. 

Catch up on the previous episode.

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