In its most direct commentary yet on the Trump administration and its ongoing war with the press, Thursday’s episode of Murphy Brown revolves around Frank Fontana taking a literal beating at a presidential rally.
After volunteering to cover the event because “I really miss being out in the field,” Frank (Joe Regalbuto) shows up at the Pennsylvania rally where “Trump” (yup, the show had someone impersonating the president) starts riffing on Murphy (Candice Bergen).
“Anybody catch old Murphy on TV this morning?” the fictitious Trump said. “Yes, she was at it again sitting there with her flunky friends, telling their big lies, planting their fake stories about our great country.”
Then he singles out Frank. “I hear old Murphy’s partner in crime, fibbing Frank Fontana is here tonight. Where is he? There he is. See him? That’s right. Let fibbin’ Frank know what you think of him. Maybe a good body slam. What do you say?”
Shortly thereafter, Brown learns from Miles that Frank was assaulted at the rally and airlifted to the hospital. When she sees her red-faced colleague in recovery, Murphy quips, “I guess when you major in journalism these days you have to minor in kickboxing.”
Frank explained he left the press pen to interview some of the people. “Next thing I know I was surrounded by a sea of red hats,” he tells Murphy and her son Avery (Jake McDorman).
In the next scene, Avery tries to find answers by reporting from a café near the arena where the rally occurred. He finds a woman who actually took the first swing at Frank. “How can you punch someone for simply doing their job?”
“He had it coming,” the woman responds. “He’s fake news. He’s the enemy of the people.”
“He’s a journalist,” responds Avery. “He was just there to cover the rally. That is what the free press does. That’s what separates a democracy from a dictatorship. Or maybe a dictatorship is what you’d prefer.”
Then Avery gets his block knocked off.
Later in the episode, Frank laments to Murphy about how he “doesn’t feel safe” in America anymore. “If this is the way it’s going to be, I’m not so sure I want to do it anymore. It’s a different profession. No one would ever call Huntley or Brinkley enemies of the people.”
Earlier this week, CBS announced that Murphy Brown will complete its 13-episode run on Dec. 20 to make way for the new comedy Fam starring Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell. No decision has been made about whether Murphy Brown will earn a second season.
Murphy Brown airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS.