HBO’s ”The Newsroom” has caught a lot of heat this week about a scene in the most recent episode of Season 3 that addressed issues about sexual assault on college campuses. The scene involved Don (Thomas Sadoski), a producer for fictional news outlet ACN, trying to discourage a Princeton girl, Mary (Sarah Sutherland), from taking her accusations against her alleged rapist online and to television, angering some groups who vehemently defend the victim’s right to speak out. However, there has been no apology. “The Newsroom” has rallied around the scene, defending the episode and writer Aaron Sorkin.
Olivia Munn, who plays anchor Sloan Sabbith on the show, voiced her defense of the scene, saying that Sorkin meant for the scene to provoke and stir debate.
"The reality is that Sorkin writes things so that they can be talked about, and so we show both sides of it," Munn told Entertainment Weekly. "I think it was important to show what it's like for women to be a rape victim, want to speak out, and then have somebody come in and say, 'Hey don't do that. That's going to be bad for you.’ Sorkin wasn't saying, 'Don't do that,'” Munn continued. "He was saying, 'This is what happens.'"
A spokesperson for HBO expressed the network’s support, echoing Munn’s defense of Sorkin’s intentions, telling the New York Times, “The Newsroom’ smartly explores events that have happened or could happen.”
Finally, Aaron Sorkin himself defended the scene, explaining to the New York Times that the scene was intended to be uncomfortable and explore a delicate ethical issue for the show’s character Don.
“I designed the story so that Mary, the Princeton student, would have our sympathy,” said Sorkin. “The two men she accuses are kept off screen. I cast a great actress who feels like our sister, our daughter, our roommate. I did everything I could to make it difficult not to believe her so that Don’s declaration that he’s obligated to believe ‘the sketchy guy’ would be excruciating.”
Sorkin added, “Let me put it a simpler way. She’s not a rape victim. She is an alleged rape victim and I wanted to make it harder for us to remember that. It’s easy to side with the accused in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ I made it less easy last night.”
Time will tell if the controversy will affect the reception of “The Newsroom” series finale, set to air Sunday, Dec. 14, at 9 p.m. EST on HBO. Fans will have to decide for themselves whether or not they approve of the scene and how Sorkin handled the delicate subject matter.
What did you think of the controversial scene? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.