Alec Baldwin Says He's Leaving Public Life, Calls MSNBC 'Full of Shit'

In a lengthy essay, the actor says he got the "Conan O'Brien treatment" at the cable network; he also attacks Rachel Maddow and Shia LaBeouf, among others.
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Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin says he's done with public life.

In a nearly 5,300-word essay published Sunday night on New York Magazine's Vulture blog, the actor -- who has quit and rejoined Twitter several times amid headline-making incidents -- said he is ready to move out of the spotlight while also attacking the media, MSNBC, network chief Phil Griffin, Rachel Maddow and Shia LaBeouf.

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In the essay, as told to Joe Hagan, Baldwin explains that "everything changed" for him in November, when he was accused -- wrongly, he says -- of using a gay slur at a photographer. Baldwin added that he isn't a homophobe, noting that he's advocated for marriage equality and officiated at a gay friend's wedding.

As he tells it, a TMZ photographer "ambushed me as I was putting my family in a car, and I chased him down the block and said, 'C---sucking mother---er' or whatever (when I have some volatile interaction with these people, I don't pull out a pen and take notes on what I said)." He also called TMZ's Harvey Levin a "cretinous barnacle on the press."

While he admitted that he has reacted poorly in some situations, he insisted that he did not use a slur. It was over this incident that Baldwin was fired in late November from his talk show on MSNBC, a network he claims he never wanted to be part of in the first place.

"I watched MSNBC, prior to working there, very sporadically," he says. "Once I had signed a contract with them, I wanted to see more of what they were about. It turned out to be the same shit all day long."

He pitched the idea of bringing his WNYC podcast to the network, wherein he would continue bringing in a variety of "electic" people who weren't the typical talk show guests.

"I want to keep it simple," he says. "I get somebody in a chair and I shoot the shit with them for an hour and a half and we cut it into a one-hour show. … My show was meant to be as harmless and inoffensive as could be."

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But Baldwin claims that MSNBC chief Griffin wanted to change up the format. While Baldwin came to believe being on MSNBC was a mistake, he says, he decided he'd give it a try. It was suggested that he bring in Rob Lowe, who happened to have an upcoming meeting in the building, as a guest. But Baldwin declined.

The first episode of Up Late debuted Oct. 11, in a 10 p.m. Friday time slot. After five weeks, the talker was down 40 percent from the premiere. Its final episode averaged just 395,000 viewers and 101,000 adults 25-54.

Baldwin claims that he had conversations with Griffin about ratings during which the executive told him not to worry about the numbers and to give the show time to grow. He also was put on a two-week suspension, but when he was set to return, Baldwin's rep and MSNBC put out a statement that they had mutually decided to part ways.

"Although [Griffin] appeared to have some buyer's remorse, he told me to hang in there," Baldwin says now. "After the TMZ event, he said, 'Don’t worry. I have to suspend you. But this will blow over.' I have all the emails to prove it. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, MSNBC said, 'You’re fired.'"

Baldwin says his contract wasn't paid because the network invoked a morals clause and describes his experience there as getting the "Conan O'Brien treatment," referring to O'Brien's tenure of The Tonight Show cut short when NBC decided to bring Jay Leno back in as the host.

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Baldwin also attacks MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, calling her "a phony who doesn't have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air." (BuzzFeed's Kate Aurthur tweeted a response from Maddow on Sunday night: "I have never met Mr. Baldwin, either on camera or off-camera. I wish him all the best.")

Among other incidents that Baldwin has made headlines for in recent months, he also addresses his calling a Daily Mail reporter a "toxic little queen" after the reporter wrote that Baldwin's wife was tweeting during James Gandolfini's funeral. He apologizes for the words he chose and at the time didn't believe them to be homophobic. But he also says the story was an outright lie.

Meanwhile, Baldwin also weighs in on LaBeouf, his one-time co-star in director Dan Sullivan's Broadway production of Lyle Kessler's Orphans. LaBeouf was fired less than a month before the play opened, and Baldwin claims there was "friction" between the two actors from the start.

"LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly, a jailhouse mentality wherever he goes. … You could tell right away he loves to argue," Baldwin says. "And one day he attacked me in front of everyone. He said, 'You're slowing me down, and you don't know your lines. And if you don't say your lines, I'm just going to keep saying my lines.'"

Baldwin said he told Sullivan and the stage manager he would quit instead of have them fire LaBeouf, but they chose to fire the young actor instead.

"I think he was shocked," Baldwin says. "He had that card, that card you get when you make films that make a lot of money that gives you a certain kind of entitlement. I think he was surprised that it didn't work in the theater."

LaBeouf has recently been making headlines of his own for bizarre behavior including wearing a paper bag over his head at the Berlin film festival earlier this month that read "I am not famous anymore."

For his part, Baldwin says that, when he heard of LaBeouf's stunt, "there was truly a part of me that felt sorry for him, oddly enough."