Alec Baldwin's Talk Show Was Canceled After He Called Photographer a Slur
Up Late With Alec Baldwin only ran on MSNBC for a few weeks.
Alec Baldwin is an actor with a reputation for generating bad press—a fact that was true long before his involvement in an accidental shooting on a film set in 2021 that killed one crew member and may lead to another involuntary manslaughter charge for the actor (the first was dropped). For decades, the star's career has been plagued by far more minor, yet attention-grabbing scandals, often caused by his evident lack of a filter. But while the 2007 voicemail in which he called his daughter Ireland Baldwin a "rude, thoughtless little pig" may have cost him the respect of millions, a different outburst was the one that actually cost him a job. Keep reading to learn how Baldwin's temper—and particular way with words—got him fired from his own TV show.
Up Late With Alec Baldwin premiered on MSNBC to low ratings in October 2013.
Baldwin's talk show launched in the wake of his career-redefining role as Jack Donaghy in the screwball sitcom 30 Rock. According to The Daily Beast, the idea to put him at the helm of a serious-minded Charlie Rose-style program grew out of a podcast he'd worked on for NewYork City's WNYC and seemed a good alternative to trying to replicate his most recent success.
"I had three or four very lucrative sitcom offers to go and just replicate what I did for Tina [Fey, the creator of 30 Rock]—go and play a Type-A, out-of-touch raging whatever kind of character," Baldwin explained. Instead, he decided the prospect of a less-demanding schedule—his wife Hilaria had recently given birth to their first child and the talk show would allow him to remain at home in New York—was an attractive one.
The show debuted on Oct. 11, 2013, with guest Bill de Blasio, then a candidate for New York City mayor. Despite a decent review in The New York Times, the ratings were lower than expected and continued to drop in subsequent weeks. After five weeks, according to The Hollywood Reporter, viewership was at 40 percent of that of the premiere…and it would have no chance to improve.
Baldwin got into hot water after attacking a paparazzo.
Speaking to The Daily Beast around the talk show's premiere, Baldwin revealed he was already irritated with how the press was treating him—and his frustration would soon boil over into a show-killing confrontation with a photographer.
"If you have the misfortune where every time you get into an altercation with somebody they happen to have a camera in their hands, and they're a professional photographer … I don't have those problems with people that sell peanuts at Yankee Stadium. I don't have those problems with the teachers at my kid's school," Baldwin said. "Every time that happens, it's because I have this scumbag photographer arguing with me about his First Amendment rights who almost hits my wife with a camera."
In this case, the actor landed in hot water with his bosses at MSNBC after TMZ circulated a tape of an altercation that took place in Manhattan, near the actor's home. The clip shows Baldwin emerging from his car to berate a photographer who he apparently felt got too close to his family. He chases one man away and seems to mutter an anti-gay slur at another videographer filming the scene.
MSNBC suspended and then canceled the show.
The TMZ story quickly went viral, seemingly prompting Baldwin's bosses at MSNBC to pull his show from the air after only five episodes had been produced. According to CBS News, Baldwin's outburst wasn't directly cited as the reason for the suspension, but it came in the immediate aftermath.
The actor issued an apology for his behavior, even as he claimed his use of an anti-gay slur was unintentional. In a statement posted to the MSNBC website, Baldwin wrote, "I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have—and for that I am deeply sorry. Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward. What I said and did this week, as I was trying to protect my family, was offensive and unacceptable."
He also apologized on social media. In a since-deleted tweet thread archived by CBS News, the actor wrote, "Anti-gay slurs are wrong. They not only offend, but threaten hard fought tolerance of LGBT rights … Rich Ferraro from [GLAAD] informs me that [expletive beginning with a "c"] is an anti-gay epithet. In which case I apologize and will retire it from my vocabulary."
Despite the actor's apology tour, after the two-week suspension, MSNBC elected to cancel Up Late With Alec Baldwin, according to The Los Angeles Times.
It wasn't the first time Baldwin made headlines for homophobic comments.
At that point, Baldwin was no stranger to issuing apologies for inflammatory, homophobic comments. Months prior, in January 2013, he issued a statement to GLAAD expressing regret for words he used during another confrontation with a member of the press.
According to ABC News, Baldwin made the apology in the wake of a Twitter rant in which he called a reporter from the Daily Mail a "toxic little queen."
"My ill-advised attack on George Stark of the Daily Mail had absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone's sexual orientation," Baldwin wrote in the statement, which was posted to GLAAD's website. "My anger was directed at Mr. Stark for blatantly lying and disseminating libelous information about my wife."
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