The Ultimate Privilege? Two Parents
In 1992, then-Vice President Dan Quayle made campaign trail headlines when he set his sites on the then-popular sitcom Murphy Brown. The night before, the show’s unmarried eponymous character had given birth to a son. “It doesn't help matters,” Quayle said, “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 remark prompted swift backlash. President Bush fielded a wave of “Murphy Brown” questions at a press conference that afternoon; the show’s creator issued a denunciation; the New York Daily News said Quayle had called Brown a “tramp.” But almost a year later—after Quayle had lost reelection—a different response came in a long story that ran in the Atlantic. In it, journalist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead argued that the overwhelming majority of then-current social science supported the idea that divorce and single parenting were, all else equal, bad for children. The essay’s title, its message to the Atlantic’s primarily liberal audience? “Dan Quayle Was Right.”
Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.
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