Occasionally a story so juicy breaks that it captures the attention of the entire internet. That’s what happened over the weekend, after a Twitter user appropriately named @lenibriscoe posted a Twitter thread that began, “You have to admire Hilaria Baldwin’s commitment to her decade long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person.” The thread included a video of Baldwin “forgetting” the English word for cucumber and information suggesting her entire family hails from New England. Baldwin is the 36-year-old wife of actor Alec Baldwin and she is semi-famous for being a lifestyle correspondent for Extra, doing yoga, getting pregnant a lot, and showing off how quickly her body has bounced back on her Instagram page.
Social media, always thirsty for stories about race fakers like Rachel Dolezal and Jessica Krug, slurped up the story. @lenibriscoe’s thread was perfectly timed — it was right before Hilaria posted a video on her Instagram, responding to a light-hearted joke Amy Schumer had made about her. A broader audience of fans and haters alike noticed something interesting: the Spanish accent she often donned had totally vanished. That’s when Tracie Egan Morrissey started digging into Hilaria’s background, and created a long Instagram Story that painstakingly detailed how Hilaria was born in Boston as Hillary Hayward-Thomas, and didn’t grow up in Spain. The exposé made the Baldwin story go supernova.
This isn’t the first time Morrissey — one of the hosts of the Pot Psychology podcast and a founding editor of the feminist blog Jezebel.com — has gone viral with her Instagram Stories. In February, she publicly feuded with actress Jameela Jamil, accusing her of lying about having cancer, getting attacked by bees, and other illnesses — accusations Jamil strongly denied. Morrissey also dug into Khloé Kardashian, several of the Real Housewives, and exposed how two Vanderpump Rules cast members had called the cops on their Black co-workers, something they ended up getting fired for. But her Hilaria story took her to a different level of virality, netting her tens of thousands of new Instagram followers, and solidifying her as an internet personality who exposes celebrities’ bullshit. Morrisey told Intelligencer how it all went down.
How did you come across the Hilaria Baldwin story? Take me through the drama.
I started seeing rumblings online. People were sending me [@lenibriscoe’s] Twitter thread that said, Hilaria is faking a Spanish accent. Prior to that, I was never really interested in her. I didn’t really know a lot about her other than it felt like she was always having babies. I started looking into it, I saw some stuff they were saying on the Twitter thread. I found a forum called DC Urban Moms, and they’ve been talking about it for well over a year. People who had gone to high school with her were talking about it, and I was like, “There’s definitely something here.”
So I started to look for things, and it was incredibly easy to figure out, because her parents have pretty prominent careers. Even though they’re retired, they’re still pretty prominent. They own some kind of company about integrated health or something holistic. Her mother is a doctor. Her dad was a businessman and a lawyer. Her [maternal] grandfather was a professor and an academic. [Her relative’s] obituaries are online and they tell you about their life and where they were born. I was able to see that on her mom’s side, her great grandparents are from Massachusetts. And then on father’s side, I looked at her grandfather’s obituary and they were pilgrims basically. There’s videos of some of these people talking. Hilaria seems to come from a long line of academics.
So it then becomes obvious that no one in her family is actually from Spain. You phrased it really well in your Instagram Story when you said, “In reality, her family are pilgrims with a vacation home in Mallorca.”
She says she spent a lot of time in Spain. On her father’s website, it did mention that he visited Spain and did major in Spanish literature. Maybe she did grow up speaking Spanish at home. But from all accounts, it seems like her parents moved to Spain in 2011 or 2012, which was right before she got married.
I really tried to stick to things that were facts, other than my opinions of course. But when I saw people from her past they were all that saying she doesn’t speak with an accent and her name was Hillary. Even if Hilaria didn’t lie, she intentionally let people believe she was born in Spain.
She put out a video this weekend where she tried to make it seem like she’s tried for years to get people to believe that she was born in Boston, and that things were just always misreported, which is a huge pet peeve of mine, when celebrities blame the press for getting it wrong. Typically, with entertainment reporting, journalists are going by press releases that were issued to them by the celebrities or their PR people. It’s not like someone just invented out of thin air that she was born in Mallorca. She’s said it on podcasts. She’s been featured in Hola! Magazine numerous times and said she was a native of Spain. If she really did have an issue with that, why would continually go back to a publication that was misreporting things about her?
Ireland Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s 25-year-old daughter with Kim Basinger, responded to your Instagram Story with her own Instagram Story, where she defended Hilaria, saying, “It’s so pathetic that anyone would wanna play detective, and dig that deep into someone’s life that they don’t know….” It seemed like she was regarding you less as a journalist and more as Instagram scum. It made me remember that journalists are the enemy of celebrities, because now that social media exists, they don’t need us. But still, it’s the job of entertainment reporters to look into celebrities and report on them, which is what you were doing.
There’s this idea I run into a lot, whenever I do a quote-unquote investigation. Some celebrities have this idea that the mere fact that they are a celebrity inoculates them from deeper questioning and fact-checking, and that you should just believe what they say at face value. I don’t get it, honestly. Like if I was Hilaria, I would’ve been shitting my pants for the last ten years. Waiting for someone from high school to be like, “Hey she doesn’t really talk like that.”
I don’t think I invaded Hilaria’s privacy because all this stuff is public record. It was available on the internet. But some people act like they have this moral high ground because I’m just, you know, Instagram scum, when really the fact of the matter is that this woman pretended to be an immigrant whose second language was English, and that’s associated with certain hardships. That’s just not the case. That’s a complete fabrication. And she’s monetized that, when it turns out that she’s just a privileged woman from Boston, the daughter of a lawyer and a doctor. That’s gross to me. She’s very clearly trying to use that as a platform, with the multiple covers of Hola! Magazine. On her own Twitter account, she thanks Latina.com for including her on their list of best-dressed Latinas. She didn’t correct them when they said she was Latina.
How did you get into the business of exposing celebs?
I was one of the founding editors of Jezebel.com, and the ethos behind that site was lifting the veil off of celebrity. One of the first posts that we had was putting out a call for images of unretouched magazine covers, so we could compare the retouched and the unretouched photos. We got one from Redbook, of Faith Hill. It was so crazy to see this beautiful, gorgeous, thin woman be made even thinner. So I’ve always had a fascination with the reality of that stuff.
In the last few years, I obviously haven’t been at Jezebel, but I didn’t stop being interested in that kind of thing. I would do these investigations on my own, and just share them with my friends. Once Instagram Stories became a thing, it seemed like a good medium to use to talk about it.
Have any celebrities reached out to you about Hilaria?
A lot have responded. They’ve responded to a bunch of the different stories I’ve done. But then with Hilaria, there were no celebrities who stuck up for her. The people that slid into my DMs, all those different blue checks, were like dying laughing and had personal stories about her and Alec. People were kind of eating this up. They had a lot of schadenfreude. I imagine there are things that go on in Hamptons circles that I am not aware of, like this is a thing for them right now.
Have you also heard from people who knew her when she was Hillary?
Yes. People from their past come out of the woodwork and tell me stuff I cannot verify. So I don’t post it publicly. Someone who worked for her dad emailed me and said, “This has been the worst kept secret in Beacon Hill.” But from what I’ve read, many of the people who knew her don’t have awful stories about her. They say Hilaria is a really nice lady. Or Hillary. Whatever.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.