Fans of iconic sitcom “Happy Days” are mourning the passing of Erin Moran, whom viewers literally watched grow up on TV in the role of Joanie Cunningham.
Following Moran’s death on Friday at age 56, her former on- and off-screen love interest Scott Baio is taking heat for some insensitive comments he made about his one-time co-star/girlfriend on a radio appearance on Monday morning.
As Variety reports, Baio appeared on “The Bernie & Sid Show”, and implied that Moran’s passing was the result of her well-documented struggles with alcohol and drugs. “I’m OK, a little shocked but not completely shocked that this happened,” said Baio. “My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content. For me, you do drugs or drink, you’re gonna die. I’m sorry if that’s cold, but God gave you a brain, gave you the will to live and thrive and you gotta take care of yourself.”
This stood in stark contrast to the message he sent out on social media after news of Moran’s passing:
During the radio interview, Baio continued to suggest Moran’s passing was drug-related, although he admitted he didn’t know for certain what had caused her death.
“I’m saddened by what happened. I don’t know if it was drugs that killed her, I read one report said it might have been and I hope it… I don’t know what I hope. It’s what it is. What can you do?” he said.
“I knew Erin well, over the last many years I have not spoken with her. She was just an insecure human being and fell into this world of drugs and alcohol. Again, I don’t know if that’s what killed her, I’m sure it was a culmination of years and years of doing it that might have had something to do with it. She just never found her way,” he added.
“How do you help somebody that doesn’t want to help themselves?” asked Baio. “You try a couple of times and if they don’t want the help, I gotta go, sorry.”
Following the appearance, Baio found himself slammed on social media by those who found his comments to be insensitive and uninformed, given that the preliminary results of an autopsy indicate that Moran’s cause of death wasn’t due to an overdose, but complications from stage 4 cancer. Here’s a sampling of tweets from folks who aren’t happy with Baio’ statements:
Following the social media firestorm, Baio took to Twitter to clarify his remarks — without offering anything resembling an apology (although he does accuse those bashing him of holding a political grudge over his vocal support of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign):
Baio clarified his comments further with a Facebook post. The actor said that he only mentioned the drugs comment as he had heard she died of a heroin overdose before it was revealed cancer was the cause. He apologized for the comments and said he is “heartbroken over the passing, especially since it’s cancer”.