Late star Kirstie Alley has been remembered as a Hollywood powerhouse – but her life in the spotlight was far from devoid of controversy.
The Cheers actress, who died after a secret battle with colon cancer at the age of 71 this week, was a force on the big and small screens, winning two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.
In recent years, however, it was her propensity to frequently share her right-wing political views on social media that kept her name in the headlines.
Addressing some of her comments in an interview last year, the Drop Dead Gorgeous actress spoke of being a victim of cancel culture, claiming her vocal support of Donald Trump led to her being “blackballed” by the industry.
Public support for Donald Trump
Alley was one of the first Hollywood stars to openly back the former US president back in April 2016, despite previously supporting democrat Barack Obama.
Taking to Twitter with her “formal endorsement” of the then-presidential candidate, Alley wrote: “HELLO BOYS! this is my formal endorsement of @realDonaldTrump & I’m a woman! (last I checked),” adding of Mr Trump’s lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani: “And Rudy, U R amazing!”
She later seemed to detract her support, declaring in October that she was “no longer endorsing either candidate,” but then revealed she voted for Mr Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
“I’m voting for @realDonaldTrump because he’s NOT a politician. I voted for him 4 years ago for this reason and shall vote for him again for this reason. He gets things done quickly and he will turn the economy around quickly. There you have it folks there you have it,” she wrote in October 2020.
The resulting backlash saw Alley claim she’d never seen “so much name-calling in my life”.
“I guess I’m not allowed to have a viewpoint without being called a really nasty names by what I’m going to suppose are really nasty people,” she tweeted.
In a sign of gratitude for her fierce support over the years, Mr Trump paid tribute to Alley yesterday on his own social media platform, Truth Social: “Kirstie was a great person who truly loved the USA. She will be missed!!!”
‘Blackballed’ by Hollywood
In a 2021 interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox Nation, Alley said she was “blackballed” by Hollywood for revealing her vote.
“People go, ‘You’re so brave.’ I go, ‘No, I think I’m stupid,’” she said. “It’s so strange to me because artists are freethinkers, for the most part.
“You can be cooking meth and sleeping with hookers, as long as apparently you didn’t vote for Trump. I feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone a bit, with the whole concept of it.”
Following Alley’s interview, Mr Trump shared a statement calling the Emmy winner “strong and smart” and “a great actress”.
Alley responded, “Thank you Sir, I wish you were still on Twitter … as you should be.”
Celebrity clashes over political views
In 2019, Alley locked horns with Bette Midler after the actress and singer expressed her shock over seeing “African American men” at a Trump campaign rally, seemingly referencing the former president’s past of racist remarks.
“Look, there are African American men in this shot! How much did he pay them to be ‘blackground’?” Midler wrote along with a photo of the rally on Twitter.
“This is one of the most racist, degrading ‘jokes’ I’ve seen on Twitter & that’s saying a lot,” Alley hit back.
“We get it Bette, you hate Trump & that’s your right but to imply Black men have to be PAID to celebrate their OWN political views is pure and REAL racism. And ‘BLACKGROUND’?? WTF??!!” she added.
Alley later clashed with the cast of Will & Grace when Debra Messing and Eric McCormack demanded to see the attendance list of a Hollywood fundraiser for Mr Trump.
“Please print a list of all attendees please. The public has a right to know,” wrote Messing in a since-deleted tweet. McCormack added, “Hey, @THR, Kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don‘t wanna work with.”
Alley followed up with: “I refuse to be part of the Hollywood a**hats who can’t see that ‘NOT working with Republicans’ is as stupid and NASTY as ‘REFUSING to do business with gay people’.. STOP ACTING above the FRAY ya damn hypocrites … WE are the same species! let’s help each OTHER ya damn yahoos,” she tweeted.
Her remarks prompted instant backlash, including from fellow celebs Patricia Arquette and Tom Arnold, and Alley later apologised for causing offence.
After her shock death this week, Jamie Lee Curtis, who worked with Alley on Scream Queens, also made mention of their opposing views in her tribute.
She wrote that though they “agreed to disagree about some things,” the two “had a mutual respect and connection”.
“She was a great comic foil in @tvscreamqueens and a beautiful mama bear in her very real life,” Curtis continued. “She helped me buy onesies for my family that year for Christmas.”
Other recent controversies
In 2017, Alley waded into controversy for blaming a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival on psychiatric drugs.
“We have to solve the mystery of Why there were no ‘shooters’ or almost 0 before the 1980s. I know one common denominator other than guns,” she wrote on Twitter.
In a follow-up tweet, she wrote that an ”additional common denominator” in mass shootings is America’s “mass usage of psychiatric drugs. A % do have side effects of VIOLENCE & SUICIDE.”
That same year, she also appeared to speak out against the #MeToo movement as women came forward en masse with allegations against men including Harvey Weinstein and US Today star Matt Lauer, to put an end to sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.
In the midst of the wave of allegations against Lauer in particular, Alley tweeted “What the hell is happening?
“We now live in a country where people lose their jobs when accused of something without proof or trial or in some cases with anonymous accusers? Can’t confront your accuser? This is bullsh*t. And it hurts the real victims of abuse and innocent people.”
After Lauer was fired from NBC, Alley clarified: “I may be mistaken (I’m not) I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned Matt L. in ANY tweet EVER.”
In 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic ripped through the globe, Alley shared a number of divisive social media posts accusing the media of fear mongering.
In one tweet, Alley claimed US news outlet CNN was unjustly whipping up “terror” among its viewers about the risks of catching coronavirus.
“I now Know why my personal friends who walk around in SHEER TERROR of contracting Covid are simply CNN viewers! I decided to watch CNN myself to get their viewpoint and oh my God DID I EVER!!!! IF YOU TOO WANT TO LIVE IN TERROR WATCH CNN!!
FEAR OF DYING IS THEIR MANTRA! OMG!” she wrote.
CNN went for the jugular with a vicious public response posted via the CNN Communications account: “Kirstie, you are welcome to change the channel – just like countless viewers did every time Veronica’s Closet came on TV.
“But don’t downplay the loss of nearly 230K American lives. And please, wear a mask.”
And when the 2020 Academy Awards nominations were revealed, sparking instant controversy due to the lack of diversity among nominees and prompting changes to the Academy’s “inclusion standards”, Alley was having none of it.
“This is a disgrace to artists everywhere … can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his f***ing paintings,” wrote Alley in a subsequently deleted tweet.
“You people have lost your minds. Control artists, control individual thought. OSCAR ORWELL.”
She later clarified: “I am 100% behind diversity inclusion & tolerance. I’m opposed to MANDATED ARBITRARY percentages relating to hiring human beings in any business.”
Alley died at 71 after a brief battle with colon cancer, her representatives have revealed.
A spokesperson for the veteran actress confirmed the official cause of death to People today.
Alley’s family shared in a statement posted to Twitter that she died following a battle with cancer that was “only recently discovered”.
“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” the statement said.
Her children added that Alley was “surrounded by her closest family” at the time of her death, and that she “fought with great strength”.
“Our mother’s zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did,” it continued.
Alley’s final television appearance, on The Masked Singer in April, was just over seven months before her death.
Story Credit: news.com.au