November 27, 2013
Baldwin, with Tina Fey (Ali Goldstein / The Associated Press)
Baldwin, with Tina Fey (Ali Goldstein / The Associated Press)

“Up Late,” the Friday-night MSNBC show of celeb Alec Baldwin, is done. “This is a mutual parting and we wish Alec all the best,” noted a statement yesterday from MSNBC.

The announcement comes after MSNBC suspended Baldwin for having used an anti-gay epithet in one of his classic street-level outbursts.

Baldwin doesn’t leave behind a memorable program; it lasted only five episodes. He doesn’t leave behind a watershed moment for MSNBC; the business of cable news boils down to handling one embarrassment or another. He doesn’t leave behind a particularly harmonious workplace, to judge from the source that has been feeding Baldwin-related dirt to the New York Post.

What he does leave behind is fodder for debate on a rather narrow issue: What’s worse — to say something offensive extemporaneously, or to say something offensive that’s been scripted? Which one connects more directly to the heart? The comparison arises because of the incident in which MSNBC host Martin Bashir, in a Nov. 15 diatribe on his eponymous program, suggested that Sarah Palin be punished with a form of torment visited upon slaves.

In a chat with Gothamist, Baldwin made clear where he stood on the matter: “Martin Bashir’s on the air, and he made his comment on the air! I dispute half the comment I made,” said Baldwin, who went into specifics on this topic — specifics that are unprintable at washingtonpost.com. In any case, Baldwin blamed his fate on the “fundamentalist” gay advocates while acknowledging “some responsibility” of his own.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.