While yet another social-media outburst from the “30 Rock” star might typically prompt nothing more than a yawn, using Twitter to issue a string of homophobic insults to a British reporter who suggested his wife was tweeting while in attendance at the funeral of James Gandolfini could be problematic.
While some may believe Baldwin was entitled to anger given the incorrect allegation, the hurtful words he chose to use in her defense could come back to haunt him.
The actor is no stranger to this kind of controversy when you think back to everything from his verbal fisticuffs with flight attendants who suggest he put his smartphone away to a voicemail putdown directed at his own daughter. But he typically manages to emerge unscathed and the public forgets.
But timing could complicate matters for him this time, and in more ways than one.
First, his indiscretion comes just days after the very public implosion of Paula Deen, who has lost key deals from her home on the Food Network to endorsement deals with Walmart and Caesars over the revelation that she made racist remarks including the N word.
While Baldwin’s homophobic comments may not have been on the nuclear level of the N word, the companies that either cast him in programs or the many brands that use him for endorsements could feel they will be vulnerable to criticism of a double standard should they not distance themselves from him.
Luckily, NBC has nothing to worry about considering his days on “30 Rock” are over, but there are plenty of marketers in business who could be thinking like this, including Capital One, for whom he’s long been a very visible pitchman on TV. Plus he has all sorts of ancillary projects like a radio show on WNYC, “Here’s the Thing.”
Second, Baldwin couldn’t have picked a worse time to sound a homophobic note considering we are in the midst of a pretty historic week given the Supreme Court rulings in support of gay marriage. Intolerance is not acceptable any time of year, but when there’s a heightened consciousness on an issue, it looks all the worse.
Had Deen’s disastrous week or the Supreme Court decisions not occurred this week, it’s quite possible that Baldwin might have skated through his latest outburst. But sometimes these extrinsic circumstances can play a crucial role in the optics of a celebrity sin, and Baldwin is about to find that out the hard way.
One thing Baldwin has done to help him out of this mess: apologize. Instead of following Deen’s example, he may have moved to do so sincerely and quickly as his former “30 Rock” cast mate Tracy Morgan did after making some particularly vicious homophobic remarks in his stand-up act last year.
Acting fast could keep Baldwin from feeling a pinch in his pocket as endorsement and casting opportunities start to dwindle. The risk for irreparable harm to his career is quite real.