'Newsroom' Writer Says Aaron Sorkin Yelled At Her, Kicked Her Out Of The Room Over Episode's Rape Plot

Alena Smith, a writer for “The Newsroom,” took to Twitter this weekend to share that, in an argument over the latest episode’s subplot about sexual assault, Aaron Sorkin yelled at her and threw her out of the room.

On this week’s episode of the HBO show, the characters — all whom work in the media — dealt with handling a rape case. TIME reports “critics say head writer Sorkin went to far.”

TIME sums up the episode in full here but basically, critics honed in on a line in which ACN producer Don says he’s obligated to believe the alleged perpetrator over the rape victim, though he admits he has no credible evidence directing him to that conclusion.

Smith admitted she agreed with those critics.

Here were her tweets:

Sorkin responded to Smith’s tweets after Mediaite inquired about the incident, and he does not deny that Smith was removed from the writer’s room.

But Sorkin is aggravated that Smith “casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality” after tweeting about what happened.

Here’s 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.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.