I think it's for the best that the enraged, engaging Alec Baldwin, who seems never to have acquired the ability to control his volcanic temper despite multiple public embarrassments over the years, has decided to quit Twitter.
As you've probably heard, Baldwin went a bit nuts late last month after Daily Mail reporter George Stark wrote -- incorrectly -- that Baldwin's pregnant wife, Hilaria, had tweeted during James Gandolfini's memorial service. Apparently the reporter was in Los Angeles and failed to take into account the time difference between the two coasts.
It was a gotcha moment that wasn't.
Hilaria Baldwin did not even have her phone with her in the church, as my colleague Meredith Blake, who was there, reported.
Baldwin, as he does, took his displeasure to Twitter. In one of several outraged tweets, he called the reporter a "toxic little queen." Not only did Baldwin threaten to hunt him down and assault him, but he urged his "followers and beyond" to "straighten out this [expletive] little [expletive]."
Was Baldwin just engaging in hyperbole, as he later claimed? Some people don't think it matters.
The blogger Andrew Sullivan suggested that Baldwin should be prosecuted for making a physical threat.
"This is not just hate speech; it's a specific call for other people to physically attack a gay man," Sullivan wrote on his blog, The Daily Dish. "It's a call to violence against a specific person, which, last time I checked, was a crime. He's a pro-gay liberal, so he may get a pass for this. He shouldn't."
A day after his angry tweets, Baldwin apologized in a letter posted on the website of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
"My ill-advised attack on George Stark of the Daily Mail had absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone's sexual orientation," Baldwin wrote. "My anger was directed at Mr. Stark for blatantly lying and disseminating libelous information about my wife and her conduct at our friend's funeral service. As someone who fights against homophobia, I apologize….I would not advocate violence against someone for being gay and I hope that my friends at GLAAD and the gay community understand that my attack on Mr. Stark in no way was the result of homophobia."
GLAAD gave Baldwin a rhetorical slap on the wrist, though GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said Baldwin was "making it clear that the intent behind his tweets does not excuse his language."
The GLAAD blog that published Baldwin's note added, "While Alec's apology is a first step, this should not be the end of the dialogue. There are now other visible actions that he should take to fight anti-gay violence and GLAAD looks forward to working with him."
Ironically, some conservatives have kicked up a fuss, insisting that Baldwin be stripped of his duties as spokesman for Capital One, the "What's in your wallet?" credit card company.
They aren't upset that Baldwin insulted gays, not really. They're worked up instead over what they see as unequal treatment for TV chef Paula Deen, who has seen her endorsement and Food Network empire crumble after she admitted using a racial slur 30 years ago. (That is what the cartoonish Media Research Center is claiming, at any rate. But Deen's problems are far more serious than that. She is embroiled in a lawsuit with a former employee who has accused Deen and her brother of creating a hostile work environment at the restaurants she owns.)
I don't think comparing Baldwin to Deen is going to stick. But it will be interesting to see whether his latest outburst leads to anything other than his self-imposed renunciation of Twitter.
Decades of Baldwin outbursts have not done any permanent damage.
There was the 1995 attack on a paparazzo in Woodland Hills when he and then-wife Kim Basinger brought their new daughter, Ireland, home from the hospital. (A jury found both both men at fault, though Baldwin was ordered to pay the photographer $4,500.)
In 2007, in a custody dispute with Basinger, he left a nasty voicemail for his preteen daughter, calling her a "thoughtless little pig."
In 2011, he was kicked off an American Airlines flight before takeoff from LAX because he was playing "Words with Friends" and refused to turn off his phone. He slammed the plane's lavatory door so hard the pilots became alarmed. Baldwin gave up Twitter for a while after that.
Also that year, he got a bit of attention in New York magazine for calling a Starbucks barrista an "uptight queen."
And last year, after obtaining his marriage license in New York City with his then-fiancee, he allegedly punched a photographer.
Still, Baldwin always seems to restore himself in the public eye. He has a fantastic ability to make fun of himself, to plead his humanity and move on.
Though he's off Twitter for now, he said he plans to insert himself in an international drama that has captivated world attention.
"I'm going to fly to Russia and try to interview Snowden," he told Vanity Fair.
I'm not sure that Baldwin is the reporter I'd like to see grill the NSA leaker.
But if the actor and lapsed Tweeter does fly to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden for his WNYC podcast, I hope he remembers to turn off his phone during takeoff and landing.