The ABC 20/20 Special on Parental Alienation (Part I)

Los Angeles, CA–“Mommy says we can all be together again if you go and get help. Mommy says you’re sick.”

ABC’s 20/20 did a feature on Parental Alienation centered around Alec Baldwin Friday evening. Producer Ketruah Gray’s write-up of the show is Alec Baldwin on Divorce, Children and Reconciliation (ABC, 9/19/08). A video excerpt of the show can be seen here.

I worked with Gray and other ABC producers on the show, providing background information on Parental Alienation, the feminist political opposition to it, and other issues. Divorce is usually a difficult issue for TV shows to cover, and Parental Alienation cases are probably the worst because the alienator and the targeted parent have such different views of what is happening.

Gray wrote:

Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s cutthroat custody battle over their 12-year-old daughter, Ireland, has made international headlines for years. The couple divorced in 2002 after nine years of marriage, but the vicious accusations on both sides continued, culminating in the infamous 2007 voice-mail message in which Baldwin berated his daughter…

Baldwin’s clashed with Basinger for nearly eight years: there are hundreds of documents, 91 court proceedings so far, and about $3 million in legal costs.

But it didn’t start out like that.

Baldwin told Sawyer that he and Basinger came into marriage much like anyone else, except that they were two of Hollywood’s biggest stars when they met on the set of “The Marrying Man” in 1990. “I had a marriage that I came to in the same way everybody else comes to a marriage. We all take chances when we get married.”

Not long after they met, Basinger told ABC News that she thought Baldwin was “something else” and hoped that he was nuts about her.

Two years after their 1993 marriage ceremony, their daughter was born.

But by the time Ireland was 5, the marriage was unraveling.

“I’m sure she [Basinger] would tell you ad nauseam, she might even be more chatty about the warning signals she saw in me, you know,” said Baldwin. “The harshest thing I can say is I was married to someone for whom all dissent was abuse. If you had your own opinion, you were abusive. And getting into the details doesn’t matter ’cause it’s not good for me legally to do that and it’s not good for my daughter.”

Ireland is unquestionably the love of Baldwin’s life. He won joint legal and physical custody of her in 2004 and has racked up tens of thousands of frequent flier miles traveling between New York and Los Angeles to satisfy his custody visitation schedule. He sees himself as a good father and says he has met every court requirement that Basinger’s side has thrown at him, including anger management classes.

“When I’m with her, I’m happy,” he said. “It’s one of the only times in my life that I’m happy.”

In some ways, though, Baldwin believes that the separation with his daughter began before she was born.

“I think when my daughter becomes an adult, she’ll be fully cognizant of the fact that she’s estranged,” he said…

When he and Basinger separated, Baldwin said she moved from their home in New York back to California, reportedly for Ireland’s health. At the time, a court-sponsored mediator was making custody arrangements with agonizing slowness, claims Baldwin.

At one point, Baldwin said Ireland told him, “Mommy says we can all be together again if you go and get help. Mommy says you’re sick.” Baldwin told Sawyer that he told his lawyer because he said it was another of Basinger’s attempts to turn Ireland against him.

In “A Promise to Ourselves” Baldwin urges the courts to recognize parental alienation syndrome, which he says is real.

“There are women who get divorced in order to punish, out of this bitter, bitter hatred that some of these women have for their ex-husbands, they turn their children against them. Everybody knows that’s real. We know that there are gangs in East L.A. We don’t need to say there’s East L.A. Gang syndrome, do we?”…

Baldwin says he dreams of ending the battle with Basinger.

“I never think about her. I never think about the past. I think about the dreams I had, the reconciliation dreams, which to me, I could honestly say to you, there are few waking dreams I’ve had that I woke up as intoxicated as I was by those dreams, that all this was behind us.”

Read the full story here.

Baldwin’s phone message to his daughter last year was terrible, but Basinger’s alienation campaign against him–for which she has even been criticized by her own mother–has been worse. I discuss the case in greater detail in my co-authored column Baldwin Not the Only Culprit in Custody Battle with Basinger (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/27/07), as well as on CNN here, Fox here, and in numerous blog posts here.

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