By Michael Leidtke
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alec Baldwin jokingly professed his love for a man in front of a large crowd Wednesday as he tried to ease the backlash triggered by an Internet clip that captured him berating a photographer with what sounded like a gay slur.
"I want you to be my lover, Matt," Baldwin told a member of his entourage after asking him to stand up. "I love you, Matt. I love you in that way."
After the packed audience’s laughter died down, Baldwin added that he has loved some men more than women during his life, although never in a sexual way.
The Emmy-winning actor prefaced his moment of levity with plenty of contrition as he sought to minimize any lingering damage to his career from the fallout after a confrontation with a photographer outside his New York home last week. He made his appearance at a major technology conference in San Francisco, a city that has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement for decades.
Echoing remarks that he made in a blog post over the weekend, Baldwin adamantly denied punctuating a profanity-laced tirade with an epithet that demeans gay men.
MSNBC suspended Baldwin’s talk show on the TV network for two weeks after the entertainment website TMZ posted a video of the combustible actor’s latest outburst. The TV network hasn’t said whether the show, “Up Late with Alec Baldwin,” will return.
Baldwin, 55, has gotten into heated exchanges previously with photographers taking pictures of him and his family. He also was kicked off a plane in 2011 after he refused to stop playing a game on his smartphone.
The actor told Wednesday's crowd that he hopes his 3-month-old daughter learns to control her temper better than he has as an adult. He also says he now realizes he needs to choose his words more carefully.
“If in any context in the world that we live in today, if any word is remotely offensive to people, then I’m perfectly willing to learn a different word,” he said.
Baldwin also lamented people’s tendency to believe everything they hear and read on the Internet.
"There is a drive-by justice to the Internet society," he said. "They indict you, convict you and hang you on the same day."
ServiceSource International Inc., a San Francisco technology company that sponsored Baldwin’s appearance, almost canceled the session after TMZ posted the video of the actor’s verbal assault. The perception that Baldwin had insulted the gay community presented ServiceSource CEO Michael Smerklo with what he described as one of the toughest decisions in his career.
The session went on, Smerklo said, because the company and Baldwin agreed that it could spur a dialogue about important issues.
ServiceSource had asked Baldwin to share his views on business largely because of his fictional role as a top General Electric Co. executive on the TV series “30 Rock” and his role as a hard-charging salesman in the 1993 film “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
ServiceSource played clips of Baldwin in both of those roles during Wednesday’s session, although it left out a scene in which his character in “Glengarry Glen Ross” spews a gay slur.