|It's been a rough week in the Condit household. First Gary Condit got dismissed by California voters. Now his wife is getting dissed by the producers of Law & Order. |
Carolyn Condit had demanded a retraction from the NBC show's brain trust after a recent episode titled "Missing"--about a politician and his MIA aide--hit a bit too close to home. She had her lawyer fire off a letter to the show's production company, Studios USA, claiming one of the characters on the February 6 episode was based on her. Such a portrayal, she said, was "defamatory."
But on Wednesday, the producers of network television's longest running drama said no can do. "We have received a letter, we are responding," the studio said in a statement. "We believe that there is no basis for her claims. Law & Order is fictional."
A quick recap of the facts and the fiction:
The Condit case: Chandra Levy, 24, a political intern, vanished last May from her Washington, D.C., apartment; Condit is a Democratic California congressman (who lost his bid for reelection Tuesday), who had an affair with Levy; both Condit and his wife have been the targets of speculation in the tabloid and mainstream press and have allegedly stalled efforts by Levy's family and criminal investigators to try to find out what might have happened to the young woman.
The "Missing" case: Lisa Edwards, a 24-year old aide to a state senator, vanishes from her New York apartment; following pleas from her frantic parents, it is discovered that three powerful state officials had ties to young woman; after the usual number of red herrings, lies, evasions, suspicions and cross-questioning, accompanied by the cynically raised eyebrows of Detective Lennie Briscoe and the concerned furrowed brow of District Attorney Jack McCoy, it is suggested that the wife of the state gaming board chairman had something to do with her death.
Enter Carolyn Condit's Los Angeles lawyer, Brian A. Rishwain, who previously filed a $10 million lawsuit on her behalf against the National Enquirer for falsely implying she had spoken to and attacked Levy. On February 26, Rishwain sent a letter headlined "Demand for Retraction" to Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf and NBC attorneys. The letter read in part: "It is undeniable that the viewing public would identify Mrs. Condit as the wife depicted in the episode."
Wolf's representative has referred all calls to Studios USA, which is sticking by its original statement that "there is no basis for [Condit's] claims."
Calls to Rishwain's office Thursday were not immediately returned. He did tell the Associated Press that he hadn't yet spoken to Carolyn Condit following the network and producers' rejection of his demand. He implied a lawsuit could be filed if there is no onair retraction stressing his client had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance.
NBC--though not Wolf or Studios USA--did apologize to Hispanic groups last year after they complained of unfair depiction during a Law & Order episode about violence during a Puerto Rican Day parade (Wolf decried the move). But even the network appears to be standing by the producers this time.
NBC has aired Emmy-winning Law & Order for 12 seasons and currently also airs its two off-shoots, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. All three shows are known for their "ripped-from-the-headline" plots that explore criminal, legal and moral issues. The shows carry the standard disclaimer that storyline do "not depict any actual person or event."