Why is it so radical today to affirm that a two-parent family is the best environment for children?

What was it that Dan Quayle said about Murphy Brown? Judging by the reactions, it must have been strong stuff. The news media turned it into the biggest battle between two fictional characters since somebody shot J. R.—fictional characters because the “Dan Quayle” who exists in the minds of Americans is primarily a product of one-liners delivered on late-night TV. Anything Quayle says is attributed to that image, regardless of whatever real faults or virtues he may possess.

What got lost in the media-generated hullabaloo was the rest of the speech wrapped around the one Murphy Brown sentence that made headlines: “Bearing babies irresponsibly is wrong,” Quayle told the Commonwealth Club of California. “Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. It doesn’t help matters when prime-time 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.’ ”

The fact is, Quayle made some very good points. First, Hollywood does have a responsibility for the influence it wields over society. When the entertainment industry refuses to recognize it is a shaper, not just a reflector, of society, it is like an absent father ducking child-support payments. As critic Michael Medved often points out, the television industry is built on the premise that a little time on the tube will influence consumer behavior. Advertisers are lining up to pay as much as $300,000 for a 30-second commercial on future episodes of “Murphy Brown.” If a half-minute is billed as being that valuable to those ...

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