Alec Baldwin is often savagely attacking conservatives on The Huffington Post, so it’s surprising when he lauds a leftist instead. On Sunday, he promoted a new documentary on communist lawyer William Kunstler called William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, produced and directed by Kunstler's daughters. Baldwin blurbed:
The film covers the life and career of the colorful, at times outrageous, and, often, highly effective attorney. Kunstler's career as a lawyer and activist spanned the civil rights movement in the early 60's, the legendary Chicago Eight case in 1968 (and beyond), the massacre at Attica and its aftermath and the American Indian Movement protests at Wounded Knee in 1973...I encourage everyone to rush to see this movie and discover/rediscover the life and career of the brilliant William Kunstler.
Back in the 1990s, I dug up old articles on Kunstler in the archives of the conservative newspaper Human Events, and what I found were the statements of a violence-endorsing Marxist. From our MediaWatch newsletter:
In 1970, the newspaper Human Events noted Kunstler told students: "You must learn to fight in the streets, learn to revolt, learn to shoot guns...You may ultimately have to take that final step. You may ultimately be bathed in blood." In 1971, he declared: "We have to bring an end to the economic system in this country," adding about the legal system that "any criminal trial in this country is an oppression." In 1976, Kunstler said "Although I couldn't pull the trigger myself, I don't disagree with murder sometimes, especially political assassinations." In 1979, Kunstler told the Village Voice Joan Baez should not have criticized the communist government of Vietnam since he "would never join in a public denunciation of a socialist country."
Baldwin did not declare on the Huff-Post, as the documentary's website claims, that he was "host" for the Kunstler film at the Hamptons Film Festival. He claimed Kunstler’s daughters show him in an "honest, critical light." Although I haven’t seen the film, they’re promoting it as a heroic narrative: "Help us spread Bill’s inspiring story of standing up for justice, fighting racism, and having the courage to make unpopular choices in the service of social change."
Supporters listed on their website include the actor and former TV talk show host Charles Grodin and the Susan Sarandon Charitable Foundation. They also list as a financial supporter the federally funded Independent Television Service, and their website features not only their logo, but the logos of PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS’s documentary series POV.
When Kunstler died in 1995, network anchors portrayed this communist as a civil libertarian. On the September 5 Today, NBC anchor Matt Lauer announced: "Controversial attorney William Kunstler is being remembered today as a champion of the underdog and a defender of the Constitution." Reporter Pete Williams added: "He once explained his choice of unpopular clients by saying he wanted to keep the government from becoming too powerful." On the same day, Peter Jennings noted in his ABC Radio commentary that Kunstler "was respected for his belief in justice and his commitment to the rights of the defendant...Kunstler always represented the underdog, pitting the individual against the government, he said, keeping the state from becoming all-powerful." Jennings noted "what makes his life an important one" is "his belief in justice, because of his commitment to the constitutional right to a defense."