Scandal-ous!: 15 Career Highlights Of The Real-Life Olivia Pope

Scandal-ous True Stories: 15 Career Highlights Of The Real-Life Olivia Pope

Scandal Cast and Producers PF WENN

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Scandal is ABC’s latest powerhouse drama, one that’s become a phenomenon thanks in part to its roots in real-life. On the show Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, a former White House press secretary who leaves the Oval Office to start her own crisis management firm. The character has become an immediate hit with audiences who may or may not know she’s a stand-in for real-life crisis management guru Judy Smith (pictured above, second from the right). A legend in her field, Smith acts as a co-executive producer and consultant for Scandal. For a taste of some of the real-life incidents that inspired the show, here are 15 of Smith’s most noteworthy clients, associates and career highlights.

George H.W. Bush

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The bulk of Scandal is based off of Judy Smith’s experiences working as a deputy press secretary under George H.W. Bush. During her tenure Smith put her crisis management skills to good on such issues as the Gulf War and the Iran-Contra affair. While Smith acts as a co-executive producer on Scandal, she has admitted that, when compared to her own real-life experiences, the show is “sooooo Hollywood.” And, before you ask, no, she didn’t really have an affair with him (we imagine that’s what the “sooooo” is emphasizing).

Clarence Thomas

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During her time working for Bush, Smith helped navigate Clarence Thomas into his Supreme Court nomination. His bid was shrouded in controversy as it was anticipated by an accusation of sexual harassment from former employee and law professor Anita Hill. Time Magazine later described the scandal as an “ugly circus” that “eviscerated” the reputation of both Hill and Thomas. Through Smith’s plucky tactics, Thomas got his confirmation, though the vote proved one of the closest in Supreme Court history.

Monica Lewinsky

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Smith was on the other side of the presidential table when she accepted the job of being Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer. This, of course, was after her scandalous relationship with President Bill Clinton was exposed. Smith was tasked with guiding Lewinsky through the ensuing media craze while also helping her set up a life for after the ensuing trial. Smith later described the job as “pretty intense to say the least” and admitted she would be hesitant to take a job of such magnitude on again.

Chris Webber


Photo: Carrie Devorah/

Smith has helped a number of athletes through their legal problems, including former NBA star Chris Webber. While details of Smith’s work for the athlete are scarce, we can assume she had a hand in advising him as the University of Michigan basketball scandal went to trial. The six-year investigation examined the relationship between the basketball team’s booster, Ed Martin and the player. Webber plead guilty to running an illegal lottery to raise proceeds for the team’s players. Like many of Smith’s celebrity clients, he managed to avoid serving jail time.

Juwan Howard

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Juwan Howard was one of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” along with the aforementioned Webber. Though Howard played alongside Webber during the illegal lottery, he was never implicated in any wrongdoing. We can’t assume that’s because of Smith, who lists her work for Howard as “concerning legal matters” of the NBA player. Given Smith’s expertise in crisis situations, the connection is eyebrow raising…

Senator Larry Craig

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In 2007 Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested for conducting lewd conduct in the men’s restroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. He wound up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge as the scandal grabbed headlines. Later in the year Craig admitted regretting the decision, saying he should not have plead guilty and was not soliciting gay sex. Craig hired Smith to help defend him in a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Despite her legal team’s best efforts, Craig was found guilty of misconduct and discreditably.

Jill Kelley

General Petraeus PF WENN

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Last year Judy Smith took on Jill Kelley as a client amidst the Petraeus scandal. Kelley’s report of receiving threatening emails tipped off the FBI to an extramarital affair between General David Petraeus (above) and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The incident caused Pratraeus to leave his post as the Director of the CIA. In the fallout of the scandal, Smith and her team helped steer Kelley out of the crossfire and clear her of any allegations.

Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes PF WENN

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Wesley Snipes was famously sentenced to jail time for tax evasion in 2008. As news of the scandal got out, Judy Smith was brought on as a press assistant and legal adviser. Though Snipes’ request for an appeal was roundly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Blade star only served three years and was allowed to continue working on films during his prison sentence. He was finally released on house arrest on April 5th, 2013.

Caroline Kennedy

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Don’t go thinking Smith has just been employed for damage control purposes. In 2008 Caroline Kennedy withdrew from the race to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. Later published reports cited “tax issues” and “a nanny problem” as the reasons for her walk-out. A 2009 report from the New York Daily News blamed Kennedy’s competitor, Governor Pattterson, for the leak. The newspaper also named Judy Smith– described as “hired P.R. gun”– as the mastermind who orchestrated the smear job.

Michael Vick

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was arrested in 2007 for his involvement in an illegal dog fighting ring that had been operating since 2002. Vick brought on Smith and her team to deal with the legal fallout. The quarterback promptly plead guilty to felony conspiracy in interstate commerce, aid of an unlawful animal fighting venture and felony dog fighting. Vick served 548 days in prison and, upon his 2009 release, became an advocate against animal cruelty. In recent interviews, Smith has pointed to Vick as an example of “someone who can be rehabilitated and someone who was able to regain their brand.”

Donte Stallworth

Donte Stallworth PF WENN

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NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth faced an abundance of legal issues after accidentally killing 59-year-old Mario Reyes while driving under the influence. Smith and her team are responsible for helping Stallworth cop a plea deal that had him serve only 24 days in jail with eight years probation. Stallworth also settled a financial agreement with the Reyes family out of court.

Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield PF WENN


Judy Smith also counts Major League Baseball player Gary Sheffield as one of the athletes she’s offered legal counsel to. While the specifics of her services remain vague, Sheffield has had his share of troubles. His penchant for brawling on the baseball field has gotten him suspended or fined by the MLB on a few occasions. Sheffield was also accused of using performance-enhancing steroids in 2011, though no legal action occurred thereafter. We suspect Smith’s crisis management consultation may have kicked in 2004. That year Sheffield was the victim of an attempted blackmailing by a Chicago man threatening to leak a sex tape featuring Sheffield’s wife and R. Kelly. The blackmailer was eventually caught and brought to justice.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant PF WENN


Kobe Bryant hired Smith following a sexual assault charge that was leveled at him by a 19-year-old Colorado woman. The charges against Bryant were eventually dropped and a lawsuit between the NBA star and his accuser was settled out of court. Bryant later issued an apology to the woman admitting he may have misperceived the liaison.

Basketball Wives

Basketball Wives PF WENN

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Before she was serving the a co-executive producer of Scandal, Judy Smith was dabbling behind-the-scenes of televison with the reality series Basketball Wives. Smith is credited as a consulting producer on the first eight episodes of the VH1 series. Around this time, Smith was also wrapping up her stint as the VP of Corporate Communications at NBC. Her connection to the next person of interest on this this list formed the foundation upon which Scandal was built.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes PF WENN

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Smith and Rhimes met in 2009 to discuss the idea of a show about a professional P.R. fixer. What began as a quick meeting stretched into two hours of conversation about Smith’s life and occupation. A year later ABC was ordering the pilot for Scandal with Rhimes writing and Smith offering her expertise as an executive producer. Three years later, the show went to series, became a phenomenon, and has launched Smith, the real-life Olivia Pope, into the imaginations of audiences across the country. The once “invisible partner” in legal and press matters is now a legitimate celebrity with a hit TV show. Despite being brought to the forefront of fame, Smith continues plying her trade as crisis management specialist.

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