Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.
(CNN) -- Okay, so Alec Baldwin isn't the world's most sympathetic character. He throws tantrums, smacks the occasional photographer and was once caught on tape calling his preteen daughter a "thoughtless little pig."
But he's still right to vent his spleen at the New York Post.
"Everyone who breathes air knows the Post is the worst newspaper in human history," Baldwin declared on Twitter.
Well, human history might be going a bit far. Baldwin was responding to caustic columnist Andrea Peyser, who called him a "bloviating psycho." Rupert Murdoch's paper has obviously taken great delight in targeting the liberal actor. But there's a larger issue here than just another tantalizing tabloid feud.
Baldwin has allegedly been pursued by a stalker, which is no laughing matter. And he has mounted something of a crusade against the stalking photographers known as the paparazzi. So when you strip away the name-calling, as entertaining as that is, this is a debate about the price of celebrity and the limits of privacy.
Here's the back story. Baldwin, the star of "30 Rock," has allegedly been harassed by a Canadian actress named Genevieve Sabourin. She claims they had a sexual encounter, what the Post calls a "sweaty night of passion," in 2010, and that they maintained an online romantic relationship for months. (Baldwin says they only had dinner.)
Sabourin was arrested in April after showing up at Baldwin's Greenwich Village apartment building, according to news reports. She has also allegedly appeared at a Lincoln Center screening where the actor was speaking, hung around his Hamptons retreat and sent him dozens of e-mails, the New York Daily News reported. One had the subject heading "Defcon 1," according to an affidavit signed by Baldwin, ABC news reported, and said if he didn't talk to Sabourin that she would start a war against him.
Sabourin was arrested again last week for violating a court order by allegedly aiming a series of tweets at Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria, the 28-year-old yoga instructor he married last spring. Apparently you can just as easily harass someone online as in person. The woman described by her lawyer as "starstruck" was released from jail after a judge rejected a prosecution request for $5,000 bail. Sabourin is fighting the charges.
So even if Baldwin is no Jack Donaghy, the suave TV executive he plays on NBC, does he deserve this? Does being famous mean the privacy laws somehow don't apply to you? Baldwin is hardly immune from ridicule, but he's entitled to the same legal protection as an ordinary Joe.
The Post's Peyser, who can be bitingly funny, has chosen to launch a crusade on Genevieve Sabourin's behalf. Last April she wrote, obviously tongue in cheek, of her own "cracked and perverse relationship" with Baldwin, driven by her "all-out and disturbingly weird and committed obsession" with the actor. He got personal as well, tweeting, "Andrea Peyser, you are as bad a writer as you are filled with self-hatred."
Peyser now writes that "the blubberous Baldwin" should drop the charges. Baldwin says the matter is out of his hands, now that the district attorney has brought charges. As for the New York Post, Baldwin tweeted, "Shame on them for politicizing a criminal case ... and shame on the morally bankrupt partisan trash Andrea Peyser, who demeans all women by inferring that a charge of criminal harassment is overkill when the defendant is a woman. The 'lovesick' defense." Baldwin's spokesman Matthew Hiltzik confirmed the series of tweets, which the actor later took down, but declined further comment.
I don't mind Peyser using Baldwin as her personal piñata; she's in the columnizing business, and he's certainly fair game. But there is a mindset in which the press feels free to trample on the rights of celebrities, as when Murdoch's London tabloid News of the World mercilessly hacked the phones of British stars.
The legal system is doing fine in dealing with Alec Baldwin's alleged stalker. But some in the media seem to be stalking Baldwin as well.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.