CBS’s TV drama “Madam Secretary” has sparked a real-life diplomatic incident with an upcoming episode.
The Philippines on Monday protested a plot line about a fictional Filipino president making a pass at Tea Leoni’s secretary of state, Elizabeth McCord. And a spokesman for the island nation’s real president, Rodrigo Duterte, called on the show to focus on the U.S. commander in chief.
A teaser for Sunday’s episode shows McCord bloodying the nose of the president after he appears to make a sexual advance on her.
In a letter posted Monday to its website, the Philippines’ embassy in Washington, D.C., demanded “corrective actions” from CBS. While acknowledging that the show is fictional, the embassy wrote that the depictions of world leaders still influence how viewers see real government figures and their countries.
“This highly negative portrayal of our Head of State not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also denigrates that way our nation navigates foreign affairs,” the embassy wrote. “It also tarnishes the Philippines’ longstanding advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality.”
Duterte’s spokesman hit out at the show during a press conference.
“I think they’re projecting something that they really would like to say about their own situation,” spokesman Ernesto Abella said, per Quartz. “Really, I think they should use a fictional U.S. president.”
Duterte, who has triggered condemnation for authorizing a deadly crackdown on drugs, has formed a “disturbing bond” with President Donald Trump, The Washington Post wrote in a story before the inauguration. The two leaders share a public disdain for journalists.
The Philippine president had previously faced criticism on the campaign trail for insensitive remarks about the gang-rape of a woman in a prison riot, CNN noted.
The Huffington Post reached out to CBS Entertainment for comment.
Here’s the embassy letter: