Brett Kavanaugh Slammed at Norman Lear's Sentinel Awards

Michael L. Jones
From left: Keller Wortham, Merigan Mulhern, Valentina Garza and Micah Schraft at the event

Honorees from 'GLOW,' 'Empire,' '13 Reasons Why' and more discussed controversy surrounding the judge's Supreme Court nomination.

During a night dominated by conversations about onscreen representation, Brett Kavanaugh and women's reproductive health, no one received more cheers and applause than a white man.

GLOW executive producer Mark Burley poked fun at the irony in his accepting the Norman Lear Sentinel Award for an episode that addresses abortion on Wednesday night at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood. Alas, he explained in his speech, neither of the Netflix comedy's female showrunners were available.

“They couldn’t be here tonight — they’re out of town — so they sent the old white guy," Burley joked. "Because who knows better about what a woman should do with her uterus than an old white guy?”

The laughter and applause that followed reflected swirling political discussions on the topic, which has become one of concern and scrutiny in the wake of Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. Some of the judge's commentary on the issue, such as referring to contraceptives as "abortion-inducing drugs," have sparked fear and uncertainty surrounding women's rights and the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which permitted women to make their own choices regarding their reproductive health.

“It’s unfortunate that this battle is still having to be fought," Burley told The Hollywood Reporter. "We thought that this battle had been won in 1973, and women are still in danger of losing their choice now, all these years later.”

Burley expanded his thoughts on the issue later in his speech, which ended with an indirect dig at Kavanaugh, followed by more applause.

"It's 30 years later, and we’re seeing the ability to make that choice chipped away at all over the country, and potentially, after this week, we may be in danger of losing it nationally," Burley said. "I’m going to leave you with one last question, remembering what we heard this week: Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body? If your answer is no,  you’re probably qualified to be on the Supreme Court.”

Empire writer Jamie Rosengard shared Burley's view on the subject, which the music industry drama tackled in the season four episode "Sweet Sorrow." She also alluded to Christine Blasey Ford's testimony at Kavanaugh's hearing, which accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault. 

“At a time when this is on everyone’s minds — when it’s under assault — when not just women’s right to choose but even their own memories of their own bodies seem to constantly be under attack, we feel even more passionately about how we depicted this, and I hope we continue to see it onscreen," Rosengard said.

13 Reasons Why executive producer Joy Gorman Wettels fought to keep her composure onstage while accepting a Sentinel Award for the teen drama's handling of sexual violence. She held back tears as she commented on the American justice system's approach toward sexual assault cases.

“Our culture does not encourage people who cause harm to take responsibility," Wettels said. "It’s apparent every day in today’s news and in every high school that the person who is actually placed on trial so often is the survivor.”

Similar to Ford's account of Kavanaugh's alleged actions, Bryce Walker, the series' sexual predator, traps and violates his victim at a high school party. Though Ford's testimony did not include rape, Wettels wants viewers to absorb the parallels.

"I hope that when people are listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony, those who could never picture that as a reality or had trouble believing survivors because that sounds insane — and who could have ever gone through that — maybe they saw episode 109, and maybe they saw episode 112, and maybe that helped them piece that together," she told THR.

The 2018 Sentinel Awards, presented by Hollywood, Health & Society, honored multiple series with plots addressing topics including abortion, sexual assault, maternal health, disabilities, nuclear safety, autism and more. Among the other honorees were Chicago Med, Grey's Anatomy, Speechless, Sofia the First, Sesame Street, Jane the Virgin, Madam Secretary, General Hospital and Norman Lear's One Day at Time.