May 27, 2005 -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is outraged over the season finale of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and is accusing NBC of "deliberate misuse" of his name.
Detectives on the Wednesday episode of the ripped-from-the-headlines cop drama were investigating the slaying of two judges by suspected right-wing extremists.
"Maybe we should put out an APB [all points bulletin] for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt," says Detective Alexandra Eames, played by Kathryn Erbe, after a black appellate court judge is killed.
The show appeared to be loosely based on the recent killings of the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in Chicago. The quip may have been a reference to DeLay's subsequent remarks during the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after her feeding tube was removed at her husband's request, but against her parents' wishes.
DeLay was furious with judges who upheld Schiavo's husband's request. At one point, he said, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
"Law & Order's" apparent reference to the controversy shocked the Texas Republican, who called it a "slur" against him.
"This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse," said DeLay in a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker.
"I can only assume last night's slur was in response to comments I have made in the past about the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary, as prescribed in our constitutional system of checks and balances. I have explained all such comments -- even those inartfully made and taken out of context -- on numerous occasions, including with representatives of your network."
NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly denied that the content of the show was meant as political commentary. "The script line involved an exasperated detective bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed," he said.
"It's not unusual for 'Law & Order' to mention real names in its fictional stories. We're confident in our viewers' ability to distinguish between the two."
"Law & Order" creator and producer Dick Wolf, took a swipe at DeLay in his own statement. "I … congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show."
Several weeks ago, Lefkow appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to rebuke politicians and other public figures who have held judges up to public scorn for unpopular decisions, saying that highly inflammatory remarks can encourage violence.
Lefkow was the target of a murder plot by white supremacist Matthew Hale, who was convicted of soliciting her murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In February, Lefkow's husband and mother were shot to death in their Chicago home by Bart Ross, an unemployed electrician, who confessed to the killings in a suicide note, saying that he was angry that Lefkow dismissed his malpractice suit against the judge.