Many of you are probably too young to remember the flap over Vice President Dan Quayle’s comments in 1992 about unwed mothers. Here’s some of what the former vice president said:
“Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. 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.”
His comments generated as much heat as today’s contraceptive controversy and the Left’s claim that Republicans are at war with women. Surprisingly, the almost-always-liberal Washington Post has taken up Quayle’s cause, albeit 20 years too late:
Twenty years later, Quayle’s words seem less controversial than prophetic. The number of single parents in America has increased dramatically: The proportion of children born outside marriage has risen from roughly 30 percent in 1992 to 41 percent in 2009. For women under age 30, more than half of babies are born out of wedlock. A lifestyle once associated with poverty has become mainstream. The only group of parents for whom marriage continues to be the norm is the college-educated.
Why did the former Vice President Quayle's comments draw so much attention? First, he tied the worldview of today's television programming to the problems that festered in so many communities across the nation that were told that the “Great Society” would save them.
Second, his comments implicated Hollywood. He attacked the powerful media elite.
Third, Quayle made his comments to attract disenfranchised conservative voters. His comments were seen as political (as if liberal policy statements aren’t).
Fourth, he sought to slaughter the sacred cow of moral pluralism when he attacked the idea that bearing a child alone is “just another ‘lifestyle choice.’”
This is the real rub. Diane English, the executive producer of Murphy Brown, had this to say about Quayle’s comments: “If the vice president thinks it’s disgraceful for an unmarried woman to bear a child, and if he believes that a woman cannot adequately raise a child without a father, then he’d better make sure abortion remains safe and legal.” Of course, Quayle didn’t say it was disgraceful for an unmarried woman to bear a child; he said it was irresponsible, a point that had been made by others.
Prior to Quayle’s address, even those from the liberal camp echoed his sentiments. For example, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, described by U.S. News & World Report as “a left‑leaning researcher for the Institute for American Values,” penned the following in the Washington Post: “‘Murphy Brown’ . . . celebrate[s] unwed motherhood as a glamorous lifestyle.”
Little has changed in 20 years. Hollywood types have made unwed motherhood fashionable. Well, it’s not fashionable for a teenager or a welfare mom, especially when the tax payers have to pay for their fashion statement.