MSNBC’s new program Up Late, hosted by Alec Baldwin, is off to an inauspicious start. Barely a month into its run, the show has been suspended for two weeks after the volatile actor let loose a tirade last week that included calling a paparazzo a “c*cks*cking fag.” Baldwin’s defense? He claims he said “fathead” and didn’t know the c-word was an insult….
Baldwin’s now notorious uncontrollable rage and slurs are wholly at odds with a brand that MSNBC has spent a lot of time (and money) cultivating. The network’s multi-year “Lean Forward” ad campaign, begun in 2010, describes its philosophy as “progressive,” dedicated to covering news and ideas that move the country forward. More broadly, Baldwin’s latest spectacle comes during national conversations on bullying and discrimination, and at a time when the gay rights movement is making tremendous strides in the US – all issues that the network covers on a daily basis.
This isn’t the first time Baldwin has embarrassed himself in front of TV cameras, and it almost certainly won’t be the last. That MSNBC would hire and then keep on someone whose behavior repeatedly flies in the face of the company’s stated values is more than a mystery. It’s bad news.
PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for MSNBC.
PR TAKEAWAY: Cut your losses. Brand attributes are meaningless if the company’s public representatives don’t embody them. In today’s fickle and fast-paced world reputations can be destroyed in a matter of days. Waiting to see if problems fix themselves is playing with fire. For MSNBC, better to part ways early before this burning issue gets any hotter.