Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
3rd Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward Before Trial
According to Michael Avenatti, Brett Kavanaugh's assault of Christine Blasey Ford is just the tip of the iceberg.
The controversy surrounding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh escalated after a third accuser alleged that the Supreme Court nominee took part in "gang rape" activities while in high school. Julie Swetnick, Washington resident and high school classmate of Kavanaugh, issued a sworn affidavit through her attorney Michael Avenatti alleging that she witnessed "Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking 'No' for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent."
Below is my correspondence to Mr. Davis of moments ago, together with a sworn declaration from my client. We demand an immediate FBI investigation into the allegations. Under no circumstances should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed absent a full and complete investigation. pic.twitter.com/QHbHBbbfbE
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 26, 2018
The three-page statement enumerates graphic details of inappropriate conduct by Kavanaugh between 1981 and 1982. Swetnick recollects her general impressions of Kavanaugh at the time as a "mean drunk," recalling behaviors including "speak[ing] in a demeaning manner about girls in general as well as specific girls by name." The central grievance of the new allegations, however, detail specific "efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to 'spike' the 'punch' at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'No.'"
Swetnick asserts, "I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh." Unlike Kavanaugh's other accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, Swetnick is not directly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Rather, she recounts that she did become a "victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes" in 1982, at which time Kavanaugh and Mike Judge were "present." She reports being "incapacitated" by "Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking" and "unable to fight off the boys."
Kavanaugh outright rejects the new allegations, stating, "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don't know who this is and this never happened."
President Donald Trump weighed in on the third allegation on Twitter with an ad hominem attack on Avenatti, calling the attorney, oft-noted for representing Stormy Daniels, a "lowlife" who is "just looking for attention."
Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He is just looking for attention and doesn't want people to look at his past record and relationships - a total low-life!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2018
Avenatti responded with a spirited defense of Swetnick as a "sexual assault victim" who "risked her life to do the right thing."
.@realDonaldTrump @ChuckGrassley @LindseyGrahamSC - Are you three privileged, white men calling my client Julie a liar? How dare you attack a sexual assault victim. She has risked her life to do the right thing. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your actions are disgraceful.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 26, 2018
Officially, Avenatti has demanded that both the F.B.I. and Senate Judiciary Committee investigate the veracity of Swetnick's claims. One of Kavanaugh's attorneys, Beth Wilkinson, criticized Avenatti when speaking to CNN, "There must be a reason, as a lawyer, that he didn't take these allegations to the police himself," she said. "No one is stopping him."
These new allegations were released one day before Judge Kavanaugh is due in court to address sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford, who's due to testify against Kavanaugh in an open hearing on Thursday at 10 a.m. A third accuser is sure to heighten the stakes of how Ford's testimony will be received, as Ford is poised to set a powerful precedent for how Kavanaugh's other accusers can affect the appointment of the next Supreme Court Judge.