All in the Bush Family Values

Murphy Brown Dan Quayle Daily News headline

Did Dan Quayle’s infamous 1992 attack on unwed mother Murphy Brown – ominously warning it would lead to the destruction of family values – inspire Jeb Bush’s 1995 publication Of Profiles in Character where he suggested public shaming as an effective way to “regulate irresponsible behavior of unwed mother.” NY Daily News Headline May 20, 1992

Some have been likening Jeb Bush’s recommendation for the public shaming of unwed mothers as a throwback to the 1950’s.

One needn’t go back that far.

How about 1992 when another member of the Bush entourage, Dan Quayle did the same thing.

What seems like a loopy moment when politics and popular culture collided, the Vice President of the United States chided fictional TV character Murphy Brown for having a child out-of-wedlock.

For those too young to remember,  Dan Quayle was Poppy Bushes good-looking but dim-witted Vice President, the Sarah Palin of his day, famous for putting his foot in his very conservative mouth.

As silly as this seems, this feud between the fictitious TV character and the Vice President caused quite a robust dialogue in the 1992 presidential election.

murphy brown candice bergen

Actress Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, and her newborn son Avery Brown May 1992

On May 18, 1992 Murphy Brown a fictitious 40-something, single, news anchor played by Candice Bergen on a popular sitcom of the same name, gave birth to a baby boy on her show to the delight of millions of viewers.

A day later, Dan Quayle while making a campaign speech, played the family values card arguing that Murphy Brown was sending the wrong message – that single parenthood should not be encouraged, citing the CBS show as an example of the decay of family values in America.

Candice Bergen as murphy brown Time  cover 1992

Dan Quayle’s infamous attack that caused public debate, was based on the idea that Murphy Brown could contribute to a crisis in family values by portraying single motherhood in anything other than negative terms. Cover of Time Magazine 9/21/92 Photo by Firooz Zahedi

The topic erupted into a major campaign issue as the country debated the morality of Murphy’s decision to be an unwed mother. Whenever President George H.W. Bush appeared before the media he was asked about Murphy Brown’s baby.

The debate raged throughout the summer pitting liberal ideas of an evolving concept  of family, against the more traditional Ozzie and Harriet model. By 1992, the 2 parent nuclear family that Quayle suggested as an antidote to urban violence and moral decay was already on its way out.

Despite it being over 20 years since the Murphy Brown – Dan Quayle kerfuffle  why are we are still talking about shaming of unwed mothers and what constitutes a real family?


You Might Also Enjoy

Nuclear Family Meltdown

Selling the Nuclear Family



  1. Despite it being over 60 years since Christine Jorgensen returned from Copenhagen, Denmark, why are we still talking about Caitlyn Jenner and where to place her on the human spectrum?


  2. Too bad there is no public shaming for politicians. Alas, it continues to amaze me what politicians will say for attention. And we think the Khardassians are bad.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: