Murphy Brown: Smoke Without Fire?

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WASHINGTON: It will undoubtedly be the biggest boost for the flagging ratings of “Murphy Brown” since Dan Quayle used the fictional TV reporter — and single mom — as a political football. Hours before Wednesday's episode of the CBS sitcom, Drug Enforcement Administrator Thomas Constantine decided to issue a lengthy statement blasting the show's creators as "dangerous" and accusing them of "trivializing drug abuse."

What's the fuss about this time? It seems Brown — played by Candace Bergen — has contracted breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. To relieve her suffering, another character provides Murphy with — horrors! — a marijuana cigarette. Clearly, this must be another blatant play for ratings, calculated to offend Mr. Constantine and the entire DEA.

Or is it? "I'm sorry if we've upset Mr. Constantine. Obviously he hasn't seen the show," said Marc Flanagan, the show’s executive producer. "We are not advocating the medical use of marijuana." According to Flanagan, his writers were merely acting on the advice of physicians and cancer specialists — who revealed that, in the real world, many cancer patients do relieve nausea with marijuana when other drugs don't work. Dan Quayle had better hold plans for a comeback.