EXCLUSIVE: The opening video for tonight’s Primetime Emmy Awards on News Corp-owned Fox was supposed to feature 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin playing a fictional president of television. But after a joke about News Corp topper Rupert Murdoch and the ongoing UK phone-hacking scandal involving his media empire was cut from the pretaped bit, Baldwin pulled out. He was replaced at the last minute by Star Trek veteran Leonard Nimoy, who re-did the skit sans the News Corp joke. Baldwin vaguely referenced the incident in a Sept. 17 tweet. “I did a short Emmy pretape a few days ago. Now they tell me News Corp may cut the funniest line.” Sources say that Baldwin worked with the writers who penned the script for the skit. He taped it, but after hearing that the Murdoch joke was being cut, he told the network that he prefers if the bit with him doesn’t air at all.
A person close to Baldwin said that the actor’s main issue was not the subject matter of the nixed line but that the editing was done after the taping of what he believed was a cohesive bit, and Baldwin was concerned that such a cut could affect the pace and flow of the whole skit.
When I reached out to Fox for comment, they said they made the decision not because the joke involved Murdoch but because they take the phone-hacking allegations very seriously and did not want to be seen as making light of them. Word is that the decision for the cut was made at Fox level, and there is some discrepancy over when exactly it was made, before or after the Baldwin bit was filmed. One way or another, the skit was filmed from the original script with the phone-hacking line intact.
Baldwin, a nominee in the lead actor in a comedy series category for a fifth straight year, is not attending the Emmy ceremony as he had previously committed to be at Tony Bennett’s birthday bash in New York tonight. The pretaped Emmy open hails from Dakota Pictures, the company that also did the Oscar-opening film this year featuring hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco invading scenes from the best-picture nominated films.