Perhaps the most interesting thing to happen during last night’s Emmy awards didn’t actually happen at all: A joke in the Fox broadcast alluding to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch’s involvement in the hacking scandal was cut from the opening skit, prompting a series of tweets from actor Alec Baldwin and creating a media firestorm.
In the skit, Baldwin reprised the familiar role of the head of a TV studio. While making a phone call, he was supposed to ask whether Murdoch was listening in on his conversation.
News Corp.-owned Fox decided to cut the joke, and Baldwin tweeted shortly after on Thursday, “I did a short Emmy pretape a few days ago. Now they tell me NewsCorp may cut the funniest line. #NewsCorphumorlessaswellascorrupt.”
But Fox told Entertainment Weekly that “the reason the joke was cut was not because of Murdoch’s name, but because it was in poor taste to make light of the serious allegations surrounding the phone-hacking scandal” and “the decision to cut the joke was made at the Fox level.”
After the joke was scrapped, Baldwin decided to remove himself from the skit completely (he was eventually replaced by actor Leonard Nimoy). Yesterday, before the ceremony started, Baldwin again referenced the situation, tweeting, “I understand NewsCorp killing that joke,” and “If I were enmeshed in a scandal where I hacked phones of families of innocent crime victims purely 4 profit, I'd want that 2 go away, 2.”
But Baldwin wasn’t just absent from the skit—he also didn’t show up for the Emmy ceremony, where he was nominated for his role in 30 Rock. Reports immediately surfaced that the actor had boycotted the ceremony over the News Corp. joke, but it turned out that he already had other plans—hosting Tony Bennett's 85th birthday gala in New York. “The Emmys have been in August for the last several years, but they moved to this date and I'd already committed to this,” he told reporters at the event.
“[Fox] had asked me to do a sketch for them,” Baldwin explained. “I flew out there [to Los Angeles]. I did the sketch, and it was shot. They cut out something that I thought was the funniest part. I guess it was offensive to them.”