Alec Baldwin Skewers Trump. And Supports Allen and Toback.
Posted February 2, 2018 12:28 p.m. EST
Every couple of weeks, Alec Baldwin takes the stage of NBC’s Studio 8H, the longtime home of “Saturday Night Live,” to impersonate President Donald Trump. Baldwin portrays the chief executive as a blustering bully, imperious with the women on his staff, indignant with female authority figures and unfazed by the accounts of numerous women who say Trump sexually assaulted them.
But lately, after Baldwin removes his bright orange Trump wig, makeup and eyebrow glue and sheds this persona, he has been garnering attention for very different reasons, none of them funny.
In interviews and tweets, he has offered remarks in support of the prominent film directors Woody Allen and James Toback, friends and colleagues who have been accused of sexual assault. And he has bluntly minimized or dismissed women who say they have been victims, including Allen’s daughter, Dylan Farrow, and Rose McGowan.
To their growing discomfort, some viewers and critics are finding Baldwin’s behavior to be offensive. They feel it is undercutting his satirical commentary on Trump and reveals a tone-deafness on the part of Baldwin and, by extension, “Saturday Night Live.”
“You have to be morally above the person you’re spoofing for it to be effective,” said Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, deputy editor of the feminist website Jezebel. “It seems like he is aligning himself with the more powerful people in these situations — not the accusers, but the accused.”
What’s worse, these critics say, is that in this #MeToo moment, Baldwin epitomizes a classic insincere male ally: With his star turns on “SNL,” his scalding portrayal of Trump and his own pledges to be more conscientious about how he treats women, he has enjoyed the benefits of associating with this progressive, female-positive movement while falling short of its values.
“He is in a position of power, and he has a prominent platform, and he has to figure out if he’s contributing to the conversation in a productive manner,” said Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief of the digital culture site Mashable.
She added, “Alec Baldwin is socially aware, but only to a limit. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and that’s a big problem.”
Baldwin declined requests to be interviewed for this article, and also declined an invitation to have people speak on his behalf. Several of his friends and colleagues also declined to comment this week.
Last fall, dozens of women came forward to say that Toback, the filmmaker, had harassed or abused them. At that time Baldwin — who worked with Toback on films like “Seduced and Abandoned” — offered a circumspect defense of his friend, telling The Los Angeles Times that he “always heard Jimmy was peculiar” and adding, “I don’t know that Jimmy has done anything criminal.” Explaining why he had not yet condemned Toback, Baldwin said, “Well, I’m going to get around to that in my own way and in my own time.'’
He added, “I just hope people proceed with this very carefully.”
A few days later, Baldwin seemed to cast blame on McGowan, who said she was raped by film mogul Harvey Weinstein. In a PBS interview, Baldwin said, “Rose McGowan took a payment of $100,000 and settled her case with him. And it was for Rose McGowan to prosecute that case.”
On Twitter, Baldwin has defended Dustin Hoffman from accusations of sexual misconduct and gone after late-night TV hosts like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, who he believes have persecuted men like Hoffman and Weinstein. Their shows “are beginning to resemble grand juries,” Baldwin wrote.
Last Sunday, Baldwin took aim at Farrow, who has said that Allen, her adoptive father, molested her in 1992 when she was a child. (Allen has denied these claims and was not charged with any crime.) Baldwin said in a tweet that one of the most “effective things Dylan Farrow has in her arsenal is the ‘persistence of emotion.'”
Comparing her to Mayella Ewell in “To Kill a Mockingbird” — a white woman who falsely accuses a black man of raping her — Baldwin said of Farrow in the tweet, “her tears/exhortations r meant 2 shame u in2 belief in her story.”
He continued, “But I need more than that before I destroy some1, regardless of their fame. I need a lot more.” Online and in interviews, many people said they were appalled by what they saw as Baldwin’s belligerence toward Farrow and his wading into circumstances about which he has no firsthand knowledge.
“Why somebody would confidently go on the offensive against someone brave enough to speak out about having been sexually abused is completely beyond me,” Julie Klausner, the creator and star of the Hulu comedy series “Difficult People,” said in an interview.
Klausner added, “There is loyalty to friends, and then there is unsolicited outspoken denial of an abuse survivor’s truth. It seems very strange to me that somebody who wasn’t there is so compelled to pipe up.”
At “Saturday Night Live,” Baldwin’s recent comments have gone publicly unaddressed. Press representatives for NBC declined to make anyone from “SNL” available to comment for this article and would not say if Baldwin was to appear as Trump in this weekend’s new episode.
Having played Trump on “SNL” since the fall of 2016, Baldwin, 59, has brought acclaim and renewed energy to this 43-year-old late-night series. Last September, he won an Emmy Award for playing the president on the show, adding to the two he had won playing Jack Donaghy, an oblivious, domineering TV executive on the NBC comedy “30 Rock.” But as his critics consider his statements of the past several months, they are uncomfortably reminded of Baldwin’s long history of aggressive behavior.
In 2007, he apologized after the release of a phone message to his daughter Ireland, then 11, in which he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig.” In 2011, he was removed from a plane for refusing to turn off his cellphone after the plane’s doors were closed for departure, and its crew members said he treated them with “inappropriate names” and “offensive language.”
Last November, at a tribute honoring him at the Paley Center for Media, Baldwin said he was aware he had mistreated women in the past.
“I certainly have treated women in a very sexist way,” he said at the tribute. “I’ve bullied women. I’ve overlooked women. I’ve underestimated women.”
Baldwin added, “I really would like that to change.”
But his more recent behavior has some people wondering if he is genuinely committed to or capable of self-improvement.
“It requires a lot of us to look back on our life and our experiences and acknowledge that either we experienced something terrible, or we were part of enabling a terrible situation, knowingly or unknowingly,” said Beth Newell, the creator and editor of Reductress, a feminist comedy website.
Newell said that men like Baldwin are “throwing their weight around as a way of feeling powerful.” She added, “He doesn’t want to do the emotional labor of figuring out what that means.”
Nell Scovell, a writer for TV shows like “Late Night With David Letterman,” “The Simpsons” and “Murphy Brown,” said Baldwin’s support of people like Toback and Allen “smacks of overlooking and underestimating women while overvaluing the men.”
Scovell, who writes about the sexism she encountered in the TV industry in a coming memoir called “Just the Funny Parts,” said she was not calling for Baldwin to be punished or removed from his role at “Saturday Night Live.” If anything, she said, the parallels between the men made Baldwin a more qualified stand-in for Trump. Both men came from the outskirts of New York City (Baldwin from Long Island, Trump from Jamaica, Queens); both had previous marriages and are now married to younger wives; both are wealthy and prone to issues of impulse control.
“He’s a hypocrite and Trump’s a hypocrite,” Scovell said. “Technically, he might be the best person to capture the hypocrisy.”