DC Insider Inspired 'Scandal'

Kerry Washington's role in the new TV drama Scandal was based on crisis-management guru Judy Smith.

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Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

By Neely Tucker

Judy Smith, D.C.-based crisis manager extraordinaire, is the inspiration, if not the subject, of the ABC drama series Scandal, debuting April 5.

She's played by L.A. babe Kerry Washington. Smith is the show's co-executive producer. Her first book, Good Self, Bad Self, debuts this week, too.

This is almost beyond belief. For more than two decades, few high-profile people in Washington have been as invisible as Smith. She famously represents the well-to-do who are in high-end contretemps -- Monica Lewinsky, the Chandra Levy family, Michael Vick, BP after the Gulf oil spill -- and she just as famously stays off camera.

Her crisis-management and communications firm, Smith & Co., is not listed in phone directories. It has no website. She says she has no current business cards. When you ask to meet at her office, she says she'll come to you. When she calls you on the phone, the caller ID reads "Verizon." When Betsy Beers, another of the co-executive producers of Scandal, searched the Internet for a picture of Smith before their first meeting, she found a total of one -- Smith pushing a camera out of her face in a Lewinsky media scrum.

So you just know the stories she could oh-so-thinly veil in Scandal and a tell-all memoir. The Bush White House during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings! The U.S. Attorney's Office during the (first) Marion Barry prosecution! Monica! Enron! William "Cold Cash" Jefferson! Larry Craig in the men's room!

And ... have you lost your mind? Can you spell "confidentiality clause"? You think, having seen the media beast up close, she's about to spill her guts to TMZ?

"When you're working in crisis situations, people have a tendency -- particularly the media -- to stake out your house," she says, explaining her extreme sense of privacy. "Having done this for 20 years, I understand what that is like."

What it's like: During the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal, she hid Lewinsky from the tabloids and the television cameras on some days at a church's homeless outreach program, says her friend Robin Marcus, a teaching instructor at George Washington University. Lewinsky volunteered and worked there for several days over several months. That's how bad it can get.

Read the rest of the article at the Washington Post.