Rupert, Is That You?

Leonard Nimoy made a cameo as the “president of television” in the opening segment of Fox’s Emmys broadcast. The Star Trek veteran was a pinch hitter for Alec Baldwin, who played the role in the skit’s original incarnation — and then walked when Fox cut a line about its parent company, News Corp., and the phone-hacking scandal.

The joke itself was a pretty tame jab at beleaguered News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch — while on the phone, Baldwin detects someone listening in and says “Rupert, is that you? I hear you breathing, Rupert!” — but it was enough to give the show’s producers ants in their pants.

Fox claims that it cut the joke because it did not want to make light of the serious allegations surrounding the phone-hacking charges. Those who buy that explanation are likely the same folks who believe that “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary — particularly given how other News Corp. holdings, including the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, have served as apologists for Murdoch.

Deadline Hollywood, which broke the Emmys story, reports that the decision to cut the line was made internally at Fox and was not an edict handed down from on high. But self-censorship isn’t any less egregious than censorship ordered at the top levels of News Corp.

Baldwin himself ventured a theory that Murdoch may have had a hand in the skit’s revision. Late Sunday he tweeted “If I were enmeshed in a scandal where I hacked phones of families of innocent crime victims purely for profit, I’d want that to go away, too.”