Aaron Sorkin and HBO are defending a recent episode of “The Newsroom” in the face of intense criticism and questions as to whether the episode should even have aired at all.
In what The New York Times calls “an astonishing case of prescience,” the plot of the HBO show on Sunday revolved around a subject that the country has been debating in real life this weekend: campus rape and journalism ethics. The real-world debate has taken place in response to problems discovered in a recent Rolling Stone article about an accusation of gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.
The Times writes that in the case of “The Newsroom,” “Mr. Sorkin presented an argument that some critics found disparaged the credibility of rape victims.”
Just one example of the outrage reported by The Times: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote on Jezebel.com: “The most believable aspect of this scenario is that a pompous male journalist would choose to victim-blame a woman who was raped and attempt to justify it with the weak defense that it’s about journalistic ethics.”
The plot sparked internal debate at the show, as well; one of its writers, Alena Smith, said Monday that she had been expelled from the writers’ room over her complaints, which Sorkin confirmed.
Sorkin told The Times by email: “Most of the time the conflict on the show is about ideas, and frequently those conflicts stoke a lot of passionate debate in the days that follow a broadcast. I understood going in that there would be backlash — some of it thoughtful, some of it less so — but that’s a bad reason not to write something.”