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|The West Wing character|
Stockard Channing as Abbey Bartlet
|First appearance||"The State Dinner"|
|Created by||Aaron Sorkin and Paul Redford|
|Portrayed by||Stockard Channing|
|Occupation||First Lady (Seasons 1-7)
|Family||Annie Westin (granddaughter)
Gus Westin (grandson)
Unnamed Faison (grandchild)
|Children||Elizabeth Bartlet Westin
Eleanor "Ellie" Bartlet
|Relatives||Doug Westin (son-in-law)
Vic Faison (son-in-law)
Thomas Broom Weathergill (ancestor)
Abigail Ann "Abbey" Bartlet is a fictional character played by Stockard Channing on the television serial drama, The West Wing. The role earned Channing the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2002. Throughout the series, Abbey is the First Lady of the United States, the wife of President Josiah Bartlet.
Abbey is a "world-class physician" (in her husband's words) and wife of more than thirty years to President Bartlet. In the first season episode "Five Votes Down," President Bartlet mentions to Charlie that they have been married 32 years, meaning they were married in 1967. The location of her undergraduate education is unknown. However, President Bartlet once confides in C.J. Cregg (his then press secretary) that he had changed his mind about becoming a priest during his undergraduate years at Notre Dame after meeting Abbey.
Abbey received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She began practicing medicine some twenty-five years before the start of the series, and is on the staff of both Boston Mercy Hospital (fictitious) and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. She is Adjunct Professor of Thoracic Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
She and her husband have three daughters: Elizabeth, Eleanor (called Ellie), and Zoey. In the Season 2 episode "Ellie", President Bartlet wistfully says that his middle daughter is "all Abbey's" and hasn't been close to him. Ellie eventually marries Victor, "the fruit fly guy", an entomologist; the development comes as something of a surprise to Abbey and Jed, as they assumed Ellie was a lesbian based on her prior lack of interest in romance. In the fourth season episode "Inauguration: Over There", it is established that Abbey never let the children have sugar (specifically candy) growing up, but that Jed gave it to them all the time behind her back.
To protect the secret of her husband's multiple sclerosis, Abbey gives the President doses of betaseron, which help keep his MS in check. It is only after he collapses and is confronted by Leo that she reveals their secret to a member of the White House senior staff. Her decision to medicate her husband, in violation of several American Medical Association rules, leads her to voluntarily give up her medical license for the duration of her stay in the White House. However, she later begins doing some volunteer work (giving vaccinations and taking blood, which does not require a medical license) at a clinic in a rough part of Washington, D.C. When Leo McGarry questions her about this, she firmly tells him that she plans to continue this work and that any political issues it creates are not part of the discussion. CJ defuses the situation by organizing a public service announcement featuring Abbey providing vaccinations to characters from Sesame Street.
Abbey had made a deal with her husband that he would only run for one term because of his MS. She is distraught and very angry with Jed when he breaks this promise and proceeds to run for reelection anyway. Things are tense between the two for the latter half of the second season, but as the third season progresses they work through it. When she discovers that Jed ordered the assassination of a foreign diplomat who was also a terrorist, and this eventually led his followers to kidnap Zoey, she is so angry that she leaves the White House and returns to New Hampshire with Zoey after her daughter is rescued. She eventually returns to help out during a Federal government shutdown, and when Jed asks bluntly if she will be by his side as his MS progressively worsens, she becomes noticeably upset and says she will be. In Season 6, Abbey is devoted to her husband when he is stricken with a horrifying MS episode during a summit trip to China, but later argues with him because he is not getting enough sleep in the course of his duties.
Stockard Channing appears in a recurring capacity during the series first two seasons. She appears in five first season episodes, making her series debut in "The State Dinner", and six second season episodes. Channing is promoted to the main cast during the third season, although throughout seasons three and four she is only credited for the episodes in which she appears. She is credited in every episode during the fifth and sixth seasons of the series, despite the fact that there are many episodes in which she does not appear, a fact consistent with real life, where the First Lady must perform official duties all over the country and therefore cannot stay constantly with her husband at the White House. Various episodes mention that she is away, in locations including Pakistan and Argentina. During the seventh season, Channing appears, and is credited in, four episodes, though she remains a regular cast member.