'Law and Order: SVU' episode called 'racist' and 'extremely offensive' for news-based storyline

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Law & Order: SVU films on April 15, 2019, in New York City. (Photo: Bauzen/GC Images)

The long-running show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on Thursday marked its 457th episode, which means it’s now been on longer than any other show in the hit franchise.

However, much of the talk on social media following the episode titled “Assumptions” was less than celebratory, as people criticized the show’s take on some controversial recent events.

Viewers easily spotted references to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Kentucky high school student Nick Sandmann and former Empire actor Jussie Smollett in the penultimate episode of the season. A controversial comment that Congresswoman Omar said in a February tweet that she’s since deleted was quoted by the episode’s main character, a Muslim city council representative. A high school student accused of sexually assaulting that character was initially said to have worn a “Make America Great Again” hat, which is what happened in the ongoing case of Smollett, who’s been accused of faking a hate crime against himself. It also featured a video clip depicting a student in a confrontation with the councilwoman that was found to have been taken out of context, which proved to be the case in a January video first circulated by the Washington Post. (The family of the student depicted in that video is now suing the newspaper for $250 million, CNN for $275 million and Law & Order: SVU’s network NBC for another $275 million, all for defamation.)

In the episode, when the councilwoman is assaulted, the students are accused. It’s revealed in the end that the students are innocent and that the character, Nahla Nasar, had not been completely honest.

Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to NBC for comment.

While the show often takes inspiration from current events, this time it just didn’t work, according to social media reviews. Viewers accused the show of trying to do too much at best and, at worst, inciting hatred.

In March, Variety reported that a new show in the franchise, Law & Order: Hate Crimes, scheduled to debut this season, had been postponed.

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