- Associated Press - Sunday, September 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Leonard Nimoy was a last-minute sub for Alec Baldwin on the Emmy Awards opening because of a flap over a joke about News Corp.’s phone hacking scandal.

Alec Baldwin had taped the segment, playing a fictional president of the television academy, with show host Jane Lynch. But Baldwin asked that he be left out when Fox nixed the joke that referenced the hacking scandal in Britain involving the now-closed News of the World tabloid. Both Fox and News of the World are owned by News Corp.

Fox said the network believed it was inappropriate to make light of an issue being taken seriously by the company. The joke reportedly involved Baldwin on a telephone and saying, “Is that you, Rupert?” a reference to News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch, suggesting he was listening in on the conversation.

Baldwin was not at the Emmys because of a previous commitment to attend Tony Bennett’s birthday party in New York. He tweeted that Fox killed the joke, “which sucks because I think it would have made them look better.”

He also tweeted: “If I were enmeshed in a scandal where I hack the phone of families of innocent crime victims purely 4 profit, I’d want that 2 go away, 2.”

Mark Burnett, who is producing the Emmys telecast, said, “There’s nonstop drama, but everything is fine,” when asked about the incident.

Baldwin is scheduled to host “Saturday Night Live” next week. Director Don Roy King was asked if the NBC show would address Baldwin’s joke being cut from the Emmys.

“I sure hope so,” King said.

But he noted that it’s not his call whether the subject comes up. “I’m the director,” he said. “I make sure the shots get on the air, the jokes get sold, but before that moment, the decisions are made by others.”


AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York and Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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