WASHINGTON -- Alec Baldwin reminded Washington journalists on Monday that he's one of the sharpest politically minded actors in Hollywood during an hourlong speech at the National Press Club. His visit was part of a lobbying blitz for Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit group that advocates for increased federal funding of the arts. But Baldwin ensured widespread coverage by also dropping some key entertainment news.
In between stories from his college years at George Washington University and his Capitol Hill internship in the late 1970s, Baldwin confirmed that he will remain on "30 Rock" through the seventh season starting next fall, although he said that season would be the NBC show's last.
Speculation swirled last week that Baldwin planned to quit "30 Rock" early when he tweeted, "I think I'm leaving NBC just in time,” after finding a crew from the network's "Today" show camped outside his Manhattan apartment. Baldwin plays egotistical TV executive Jack Donaghy on the Emmy-winning comedy.
In real life, Baldwin is no stranger to Washington. Just last year, he expressed interest in running for Congress.
Any appreciation of politics seemed well-tempered on Monday. "Political rhetoric creates disgust and disdain, disappointment and heartbreak," said the actor. "But nothing makes you love this country more than coming to Washington."
Thanking certain helpful lawmakers, the politically progressive Baldwn called out a few of the least sympathetic to the cause of federal arts funding -- among them, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), whom Baldwin challenged to a round of the Scrabble-like game Words With Friends, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
"Tom Coburn is not as wonderful as we would like him to be on the arts," Baldwin said of the strict fiscal conservative, before rattling off a laundry list of Oklahoma arts groups that have received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the past decade. "We always like to remind people that they have constituents who are affected by these programs," he said.
Baldwin's remarks were delivered mostly via question and answer with the audience of about 200 Press Club members and other journalists.
On Tuesday, Baldwin will hold a press conference on Capitol Hill to discuss arts funding. Joining him for a day of congressional visits will be singer-songwriter Ben Folds, formerly of Ben Folds Five; actors Hill Harper, Melina Kanakaredes, Omar Benson Miller, Johnathon Schaech and Tiffani Amber Thiessen; "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe; and country music star Clay Walker.