Shonda Rhimes bases Scandal on Real Life Events


*This article contains spoilers*


The groundbreaking television series Scandal has captivated fans with its riveting plot line and fierce characters since 2012. What many people don’t know is that the show is based off of real life events and people. Although some aspects are dramatized, numerous episodes depict real life political scandals according to ABC.


The cunning and brilliant Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is Washington DC’s go to fixer and crisis manager for a plethora of politicians, CEO’s, and other prominent public figures. The inspiration for Pope’s character came from Judy Smith, the Press Secretary for George H. W. Bush. Smith revealed in an interview with ABC 7 News in 2014 that she works alongside Shonda Rhimes, the creator and executive producer, to come up with ideas for the show.


(Photo by ABC News)


This isn’t the only aspect of the show that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. In the pilot episode “Sweet Baby”, Olivia is asked to handle an issue pertaining to a possible affair between a former white house aide, Amanda Tanner, and current President Thomas Fitzgerald Grant III. Sound familiar? This scene was based off of Bill Clinton’s alleged affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which resulted in Clinton’s impeachment. Smith was Lewinsky's lawyer during the scandal.


(Photo by NBC)


One of the most shocking scandals was in Season 2 where a National Security Agency analyst, Artie Hornbacher, steals a program known as “Thorngate” that the government uses to spy on American citizens. Approximately six months after the episode aired, the media was in a frenzy over CIA contractor Edward Snowden who copied and leaked information about the NSA’s surveillance program. Snowden fled to Russia where he was granted asylum and still remains there to this day.


Olivia Pope and her associates work for Sharon Marquette, a madam in Washington DC who has a client list of numerous high profile figures, including a Supreme Court Nominee. Marquette’s character is presumably based on Deborah Palfrey who was found guilty by a Washington DC jury for money laundering, racketeering, and mail fraud in accordance with a prostitution ring she rang from 1993 to 2006. Palfrey's list of clients also included members of Congress.

(Photo by CNN)


Although Scandal wrapped up its final season in 2018, it has altered television in major ways. Not only does it feature one of the first African American female leads in 40 years, but also hits the ground running with the incorporation of real life issues and political scandals. If you haven’t yet, you can stream all seven seasons on Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Vudu.