Goodbye to 'Law & Order:' 20 Years of Attacking Businesses, Conservative Ideals

"Law & Order," the popular courtroom drama that concluded its 20th and final season May 24, is a primetime TV legend. But the show that boasted its stories were "ripped from the headlines" often provided its viewers a distorted reality in which businesspeople were mostly portrayed as villains.

The Business & Media Institute examined "Law & Order," along with other television dramas' treatment of businessmen in 2005. BMI found that you were 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or killed by a businessman that a mobster.

Since 1990, the cop/attorney drama created by liberal Dick Wolf has covered a host of "bad" businesses from the company secretly testing roach poison on children and the greedy pharmaceutical execs selling a bad vaccine to the military to allegedly dirty defense contractors, landlords and medical device manufacturers.

In two out of three of its final episodes, the original "Law & Order" continued to demonize businessmen. One of those anti-business episodes villainized a bio-research firm, HemaLabs, for "stealing" DNA and blood samples from a family to create cancer treatment drugs. The company never compensated the impoverished family.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter told Interim District Attorney Jack McCoy the company was worse than the killer, saying, "Well, the defense has a lot to work with, HemaLabs has been exploiting Jerome Turner's family for 50 years. You should see where Nathan Robinson's relatives live, Jack. In falling down shacks. Company's treatment of this family - it's a disgrace."

HemaLabs hadn't committed the crime in that May 17 episode, it was Turner's cousin who stabbed him to death after Turner willingly provided DNA to HemaLabs. The treatment of the company created sympathy for the actual killer and hostility toward the fictional cancer-drug creators.

It was a double dose of corporate attacks that night, when the episode: "Love Eternal," also aired. In it, three wealthy corporate-types invested their money with each other and committed fraud in order to hide assets from their wives until after divorcing them. But the plan went awry when one of the three decided not to divorce his wife, prompting one of the others to murder him.

The show has a long tradition of attacks on businesses. In one famous 1999 episode, Jack McCoy even prosecuted a gun manufacturer for murder after a rejected med student applicant gunned down a group of medical students. In that episode, the jury found the company guilty (although the judge set the verdict aside).

TV Drama: More Businessmen Killers than Mob Murders

Not every store owner, executive, banker or broker you meet in life is a criminal, yet on "Law & Order," nearly every businessperson introduced is guilty of something unethical, immoral or criminal.

Primetime television has been painting this negative view of corporate employees for years. From white collar crimes to murders, businessmen were often found guilty on TV dramas including NBC's "Law & Order" franchises.

The Business & Media Institute examined the portrayal of businessmen in TV dramas in 2005 and found that a person was 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered at the hands of a businessman than the mob. Businessmen also committed crimes five times more often than terrorists and four times more often than gangs.

That analysis included all three popular "Law & Order" shows (original, "Special Victims Unit" and "Criminal Intent"). On those programs, almost 50 percent of felonies (13 out of 27) - mostly murders - were committed by businessmen.

One of those murders was on the May 4, 2005, "Law & Order" episode "Sport of Kings." That night Detective Joe Fontana and his sidekick Nick Falco investigated the murder of a jockey named Oscar. Their inquiry led them to Edgar, the CEO of a small manufacturing firm and the owner of a horse the jockey rode. Edgar not only bought a $3 million horse from Saudi Arabia with the company pension fund, but he shot Oscar when the jockey discovered what he was riding. The thoroughbred would have made a return on Edgar's "investment," or so the CEO would have had his employees believe.

Anti-business episodes like that weren't only coming from "Law & Order." For that Special Report, BMI also analyzed "CSI: Miami," "Cold Case," "NCIS" and other shows and found that businessmen killed for "a competitive edge" or because their debtors were spending money on "Lamborghinis and sushi."

But it isn't just businessmen and women that were put on trial on "Law & Order," sometimes it was conservative values under attack.

"Law & Order" Goes After Conservative Pundits, Values

From plotlines involving murders of abortion doctors, to little jokes and comments stuffed into the dialogue; "Law & Order" and its franchises "Special Victims Unit" and "Criminal Intent" routinely revealed their liberal agenda. "SVU" was renewed by NBC for the 2010-2011 season, and "CI" will continue to be broadcast by USA Network.

NBC also picked up a new series, "Law & Order: Los Angeles," for the 2010-2011 season. Liberal creator Wolf will serve as executive producer of the new franchise.

Still, it is no wonder the left-wing Huffington Post blog was mourning the loss of the original show, calling it a "National Treasure" on May 18. Lefty film critic Scott Mendelson wrote, "Even at its worst, the show had always been entertaining, thoughtful, and politically and socially nutritious."

Taking a cheap shot at Fred Thompson, a Republican who sought the presidential nomination in 2008, Mendelson called his time on the show the "dark years." At least he admitted that Wolf is a Democrat and "the show has remained relatively liberal."

Relatively liberal? That's an understatement. At least two of the final season "Law & Order" episodes were distinctly pro-gay (one was pro-gay marriage, the other portrayed gay bashing as the only alternative view), one about torture was anti-Bush, while at least four were anti-business. With character Anita Van Buren's struggle with cancer and difficulty paying her medical bills, there was anti-insurer vein to the entire 2009-2010 season.

Throw in the other franchises (SVU and CI) and the attack on conservatives got even worse. Between Feb. 10 and March 10, 2010 "Law & Order: SVU" bashed Christians by portraying them as kinky sex addicts and murderers. Detectives on the show referred to the abortion debate as "pro-choice or no choice," and the program spewed propaganda supporting special punishment for hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

A 2009 episode of "Law & Order: CI" suggested tea party protestors were like terrorists who blow things up when one of the pro-Communist terrorists in the storyline said, "It's not just us. There was another tea party in Boston. Protests in Seattle, one in Houston."

Often the bias is written into a character's dialogue, revealing the driving agenda. That's what happened in late 2009, when one "Law & Order: SVU" character slammed conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly.

"Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, all of ‘em, they are like a cancer spreading ignorance and hate ... They've convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system ..." the character (played by John Larroquette) said.

This infuriated O'Reilly who condemned "far-left" creator Dick Wolf's TV series saying it was "defamatory and outrageous and Dick Wolf is a coward for putting that out there. He's also a liar. I've consistently defended poor people who want a better life."

Original cast member Michael Moriarty condemned the "unconscionable" liberalism of "Law & Order" in Dec. 2009, saying, "I hardly expected my old television series to be the clown act that leads the American viewing audience into an increasingly predictable pile of hard left propaganda."

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.