It is unlikely that Alec Baldwin will permanently be denied visitation rights with his daughter, Ireland, NBC Chief Legal Correspondent Dan Abrams told Matt Lauer on TODAY.
“You have people who have beaten their children and have not lost the right to ever see their children or visit their children,” Abrams said a day after Baldwin’s expletive-laced phone-message tirade directed at his 11-year-old daughter landed on TMZ.com.
It was just the latest episode in the seven-year feud between Baldwin and his ex-wife, actress and model Kim Basinger, a battle so nasty, TMZ.com’s Harvey Levin called it “‘The War of the Roses’ on steroids.”
The recording prompted a family court judge to temporarily order Baldwin to cease all contact with his daughter, pending a May 4 court hearing in Los Angeles, where Basinger and Ireland live. It had been delivered to the court by the actress and was supposed to be confidential.
After angrily berating his daughter and his ex-wife, Baldwin ends the message by calling his daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig.”
“We are not going to say how we got it. We got this legally,” Levin told Lauer. “I’m not going to reveal the sources, but I will also say that we thought about this a lot just because it involves a kid. We have reason to believe that Ireland was just fine with this ending up on TMZ.com. We ended up doing what we thought was right.”
Baldwin, 49, and Basinger, 53, met on the set of a movie in 1991 and were married in 1993. In 2001, they filed for divorce in a blizzard of vicious accusations. The divorce was granted a year later. She has accused him of beating her. He has accused her of being an alcoholic. As Lauer observed after listening to the tape, Baldwin “can’t even say her name,” calling her “the mother” on the recording.
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Could he lose visitation rights?
“It’s the nastiest divorce I’ve ever seen,” said Levin. “It’s been going on for years. There has been such hatred and bitterness in this family. Kim Basinger believes that she has been the victim in this, that he has an explosive, volcanic temper. He believes that she’s denying him the right to parent Ireland, and it has just been endless.”
“It’s pretty unusual that someone loses the right of visitation based on words alone,” Abrams said. “But when you hear these words, and they are on tape, [it’s] not surprising.”
The words were harsh: “I don't give a damn that you’re 12 years old, or 11 years old, or that you’re a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the a** who doesn’t care about what you do as far as I’m concerned. You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone,” he said.
He was scheduled to call Ireland at a specific time. When she didn’t answer, which he indicated has happened before, he exploded, saying he was going to get on a plane and fly from New York to Los Angeles to “straighten you out on this issue.”
Basinger was charged with contempt of court in 2004 for violating the custody agreement. A hearing on that charge is pending. At the May 4 hearing on Baldwin’s visitation rights, Abrams said, the judge will have several options.
“There could be no serious change, there could be a warning, there could be supervised visitation, there could be the demand that he get counseling, and, of course, the most severe possible penalty would be that somehow he loses all rights to visitation,” Abrams said.
The final sanction “is unlikely strictly based on something like this,” added Abrams. “Family law cases are so tough. The first thing they have to look at is what’s in the best interest of the child. Was this so threatening [and] so menacing that this child would be better off not having any visitation from this parent? There’s already been some level of punishment. The question is what happens next.”
Baldwin apologized Thursday through a spokesman, and on Friday explained himself on his Web site.
“Although I have been told by numerous people not to worry too much, as all parents lose their patience with their kids, I am most saddened that this was released to the media because of what it does to a child,” he wrote.
“I’m sorry, as everyone who knows me is aware, for losing my temper with my child. I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.) I am sorry for what happened. But I am equally sorry that a court order was violated, which had deliberately been put under seal in this case.”
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