WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is objecting to the sarcastic use of his name on a TV crime show, but the producer of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" says viewers understand "these shows are works of fiction."
DeLay, one of Washington's most powerful Republicans, complained about Wednesday's season finale, in which a detective investigating a judge's murder, apparently linked to another judicial homicide, says: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."
"This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse," DeLay wrote in a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker.
He called the reference to him a "slur" and said it "represents a failure of stewardship of our public airwaves and as much evidence as anyone needs for the embarrassing state of the mainstream media's credibility."
DeLay was widely criticized for saying -- after federal judges declined to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case -- that the time would come for judges "to answer for their behavior." He later apologized for the remark.
The use of DeLay's name in a crime show also could have struck a sensitive nerve, with the congressman facing an ethics investigation about his travel.
The show's producer Dick Wolf said in a statement that viewers know "these shows are works of fiction. ... But I do congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a television show."
Wednesday's episode seemed inspired by the real-life story of a case in Chicago this year, in which the husband and mother of a federal judge were murdered. Suspicion initially turned to a white supremacist.
The incident further unsettled Hollywood's already uneasy relationship with Congress. Lawmakers are considering legislation to boost indecency fines, in response to Janet Jackson's breast-baring performance at the 2004 Super Bowl. Some have talked about extending indecency rules to cable.
DeLay did not see the TV show, according to an aide. He was alerted to it by his wife, who heard about it from a friend.
Kevin Reilly, NBC president of entertainment, said the line about DeLay involved an "exasperated detective bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed."
But Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) sent a memo to fellow Republicans calling "Law & Order's" reference to DeLay "over the top." "You never see TV shows depicting a 15-year-old teenage girl driving across the state border to get an abortion with a Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton T-shirt on."