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Aaron Sorkin Responds to 'Newsroom' Writer's Reaction to Rape Scene

Aaron Sorkin Responds to 'Newsroom' Writer's Reaction to Rape Scene

Aaron Sorkin is speaking out after a scene in the penultimate episode of his series The Newsroom sparked controversy for the way it handled a campus rape accusation.

After viewers voiced their anger at the scene, one of the show’s staff writers, Alena Smith, let her followers know that she disagreed with how the scene was handled and got kicked out of the writers room by Sorkin for letting her feelings be known.

Aaron is now responding to Alena‘s claims in an email to Mediate.

“I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality,” Aaron says in the note.

Click inside to read Aaron Sorkin’s full response…

Let me take a moment to say that I understand that the story in last night’s episode (305–”Oh Shenandoah”) about Don trying to persuade a Princeton student named Mary (Sarah Sutherland) not to engage in a “Crossfire”-style segment on his show has catalyzed some passionate debate this morning. I’m happy to hear it.

It catalyzed some passionate debate in our writers room too. Arguments in the writers room at The Newsroom are not only common, they’re encouraged. The staff’s ability to argue with each other and with me about issues ranging from journalistic freedom vs. national security to whether or not Kat Dennings should come back and save the company is one of their greatest assets and something I look for during the hiring process. Ultimately I have to go into a room by myself and write the show but before I do I spend many days listening to, participating in and stoking these arguments. As with any show, I have to create a safe environment where people can disagree and no one fears having their voice drowned out or, worse, mocked.

Alena Smith, a staff writer who joined the show for the third season, had strong objections to the Princeton story and made those objections known to me and to the room. I heard Alena’s objections and there was some healthy back and forth. After a while I needed to move on (there’s a clock ticking) but Alena wasn’t ready to do that yet. I gave her more time but then I really needed to move on. Alena still wouldn’t let me do that so I excused her from the room.

The next day I wrote a new draft of the Princeton scenes–the draft you saw performed last night. Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support. So I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality. It was a room in which people felt safe enough to discuss private and intimate details of their lives in the hope of bringing dimension to stories that were being pitched. That’s what happens in writers rooms and while ours was the first one Alena ever worked in, the importance of privacy was made clear to everyone on our first day of work and was reinforced constantly. I’m saddened that she’s broken that trust.

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Photos: Getty, HBO
Posted to: Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom

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  • ChrisBale

    ‘so I excused her from the room’ Gee, tell us more, Father.

  • Which one is Pink?

    This sexist scumbag. So she should shut up and let the men make decisions how stories about women’s plight should be handled and told? Fuck him.

  • Aaron Williams

    I don’t agree with the way he handled the scene, but if that is his views then that is between him and whoever his boss is. However, he is right and that she broke confidentiality rules among keeping staff writers and her views strictly between them, consequently to avoid potential public backlash. She should be reprimanded, but it did, however, expose Sorkin for what he is during rape altercations: a scum. Especially if the rape–in the show–is true and shown on t.v.

  • Leni

    There was no rape scene in the show, it was a discussion about a character who was raped. And as a woman, I was not offended in the slightest. I thought it was an intelligent debate between two characters. It was unprofessional for anyone to violate confidentiality in their workplace, especially so publicly. I would imagine it would be hard for her to get another job.

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