Diane English

UPDATED 12/28/1992 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/28/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

As Presidents, pols and her coworkers would attest, it's not wise to mess with Murphy Brown. And as Dan Quayle found out, it's not smart to mess with Murphy's tough-minded creator, Diane English. Last season, English, admired in the industry for fighting hard for her beliefs and her actors (she pressed for Candice Bergen to play Murphy when many questioned the choice), fired the plot heard round the world: Murphy opting for single motherhood. The Veep assailed the character as a poor role model, and English—recently a model for Hanes panty hose—became the standard-bearer for single mothers, which is ironic since English, 44, is childless. "It wasn't my intention to spur a national debate, but I was delighted it did," says the career-driven writer, who is married to Joel Shukovsky, her creative partner. Back in 1969, CBS pulled the plug on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour for being overtly anti-Administration. This time, CBS and virtually all of Hollywood joined English in a sometimes shrill counterattack against Quayle. English, who in the early stages felt "I was really being baited," was relieved by the support. "There was a very interesting debate about the responsibility of the entertainment industry in all this," she says, "and it was valuable for all of us to be involved." Don't think it won't happen again. "TV should prod people," says English. "Hike to rattle cages."

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