Being on 30 Rock means never having to say you’re sorry. That’s the theme of Alec Baldwin’s life over the past several years, and this week was no exception. Confronted by a reporter from the New York Post over a lawsuit against his wife, Hilaria, Baldwin first grabbed the reporter by the arm, then said, “I want you to choke to death.” So far, so good – a normal conversation with Alec.
Then things took a turn for the worse.
Spotting a black staff photographer for the Post, Baldwin turned on the charm, calling him a “coon,” a “drug dealer,” and a “crackhead.” The big surprise in all of this is that Baldwin uses racial slurs that went out of style decades ago – he’s not just a racist, he’s a retro racist.
But the media silence has been somewhat deafening. Now imagine that Patricia Heaton, a well-known pro-life actress, had dropped the c-bomb. Her career would be over, shattered, done. But Baldwin can drop that bomb, then still talk plausibly about being elected governor in a state that elects prostitute-visiting scuzzbuckets and carpetbagging bullies to high office.
Welcome to liberal Hollywood, where you can slur black people so long as you vote Democratic.
Baldwin denies the charge, of course. He says, “The claim of racist remarks is one of the most outrageous things I’ve heard in my life.” It remains to be seen whether the Post has proof of the encounter – it appears that the reporter was carrying a recording device. In any case, the charge alone would destroy the career of a lesser known actor, or a right-wing one. But in Tinseltown, anything goes. After all, Baldwin voted for Obama. So he can’t be a racist, right?
The media’s hypocrisy on this story is stunning. When George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the press rushed to report that his 911 call had him calling Martin a “coon.” Jeffrey Toobin of CNN said that the tape could force authorities to charge Zimmerman with a hate crime; the slur was “extremely significant,” said Toobin. Only one problem: it wasn’t true. Zimmerman said that it was “cold” outside. Toobin backtracked: “[T]his certainly sounds like cold …. Again, everybody wants this case to be wrapped up tomorrow. This just shows why it’s important to say, let’s get all the best evidence we can.”
No such rushes to judgment here, even when a major newspaper reports the slur.
So, how common is racism such as Baldwin’s in Hollywood? The answer is unclear. Leonard Rowe, a famed black concert promoter, has said that Hollywood execs often use racial slurs. Rowe actually sued The William Morris Agency and Creative Artists Agency based on such slurs. There are those like Patrick Goldstein who argue that racism in Hollywood is endemic:
The problem actually starts at the top. You have to remember that dramas, not comedies, earn Oscar nominations. And if there were more black executives running the studios, the studios would be far more likely to not only make low-budget, low-brow African American comedies, but make an occasional black-themed drama. But because the studio executive ranks are lily-white, there’s no one on the inside lobbying for that kind of material. And there are also shockingly few African American filmmakers in the indie film community, which is the breeding ground for most of the indie dramas that end up as awards hopefuls.
This seems exaggerated. There are occasional cases of obvious racism – for example, the decision to remove a black couple from the movie poster for Couples Retreat in Great Britain – but most cases of racism are described without particularity. That doesn’t mean they’re not real. It just means that they’re tough to document.
What is not tough to document is the treatment of those like Alec Baldwin who allegedly drop racial slurs. Some, like Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame, ruin their careers on the shoals of racist rants. But would Richards in his heyday have been fired for using the n-word? That’s an open question. And even if you drop an n-word profusely, as Richards did, you can rehabilitate yourself if you’re willing to do the liberal apology tour (Richards hit Letterman, and called Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson). In any case, he was not a liberal icon like Baldwin.
Nobody should be allowed to use racial slurs and get away with it. Unfortunately, the perspective of the media seems to be that if your leftist bona fides are in order and you have a hit show, you can.
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