Law Order SVU producer hits D.C. to further social change

Dr. Neal Baer, executive producer of the television series “Law & Order: SVU,” is coming to Washington for an entertainment summit in which industry leaders will discuss the media’s role in social change. Baer, in addition to his work in television, is a Los Angeles pediatrician.

The Hill’s Betsy Rothstein spoke with him about his role on the show, his reasons for coming to Washington and, of course, Fred Thompson, the famous former senator who plays the chief prosecutor on the flagship “Law & Order” show.

Dr. Neal Baer

Q: How long have you been the executive producer of “Law & Order?”
A: I’m going into my sixth year.

Q: How does your show help social change?
A: Well, it raises important issues. For instance, last night we did a show about the First Amendment and hate speech, on how far does the First Amendment protect hate speech. Two weeks ago, we did a story about HIV and methamphetamine abuse and the connection between the increase in HIV and meth use ... people having unprotected sex when they’re high.
We put out a lot of social issues that are not easy to find answers for. We put it out there for the audience to decide what the best answers are.

Q: Will you be visiting the Hill?
A: Not this time.

Q: But you’ve visited the Hill before?
A: About a year ago, lobbying on behalf of NOFAS, which is the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We talked to Congress people about fetal alcohol syndrome being the No. 1 cause of mental retardation in this country.

I was with [Former Senate Majority Leader] Tom Daschle [D-S.D.] this past Friday to discuss fetal alcohol syndrome, women’s reproductive rights versus fetal rights.

Q: What do you think of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) being on the show?
A: It’s great. He’s in a very big show coming on about parental notification for abortion for minors. He says he’s pro-life but also pro-law, and the law in New York says that teenagers can get abortions without parental consent.

We try to present all sides of an issue and let the audience determine what they think and actually provoke them to think about all sides of an issue. All of our characters take different sides.

Q: What will you say at this year’s entertainment summit?
A: I’m going to talk about how the media can promote social change, particularly on the issue of HIV, and awareness in terms of prevention.

Q: How are you involved in the fight against fetal alcohol syndrome?
A: I know someone in New York who is involved. I’m a pediatrician as well, so I’m very concerned about health issues that affect children.

Q: How do you have time to be both a doctor and a producer?
A: Well, I’m organized.

Q: Do you know any lawmakers on Capitol Hill?
A: I know [Sen.] Ken Salazar [D-Colo.]. We went to Colorado College together. I’ve spoken to him about fetal alcohol syndrome. He’s certainly interested in the topic.

Q: Did you know him well during college? Were the two of you close?
A: No, I did not know him well in college, but I know him well now. I did a lot of work for him in California when he was running. I’m from Denver. I tried to get the people in Los Angeles to know how important his being elected was for the U.S. because senators have an effect not only on their own states but also on the country.

Q: Do you have an amount that you raised for him?
A: No.