On Monday, Baio was interviewed on radio program The Bernie & Sid Show, and he insinuated Moran’s death on Saturday was the result of drinking and drug abuse — not Stage 4 cancer, as the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department confirmed as the likely cause of death.
“I’m OK, a little shocked … but not completely shocked that this happened,” he said on the radio show. “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.”
The backlash against Baio from Moran fans, cancer survivors and the internet, in general, was fierce. (We can’t include the majority of the tweets because of the swearing and ferocious vulgarity.)
After the avalanche of anger, Baio, 56, sought to explain what he meant by his comments.
He claims he went to bed reading a report that Moran had died of a heroin overdose (he didn’t disclose where he read it), and proceeded to go on the radio show the next morning without reading any updated news. The interview took place hours before the sheriff’s department released their cancer statement.
Baio says he would never have discussed Moran’s past drug or alcohol use had he known about the cancer. (At the time of this writing, there is no confirmation of what type of cancer Moran, also 56, was battling.)
The Joanie Loves Chachi star dug deep on the radio show Monday, painting a picture of Moran as a drug addict beyond help.
“I knew Erin well, over the last many years I have not spoken with her,” he said. “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. How do you help somebody that doesn’t want to help themselves? You try a couple of times and if they don’t want the help, I gotta go, sorry.”
He recanted on Facebook late Monday (the post is not embeddable).
Moran died Saturday in the rural community of New Salisbury, about 20 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky. Officials say standard toxicology test results are pending, but that no illegal narcotics were found at the home.
A Burbank, Calif., native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 years old. She had several years of experience when she was cast in 1974 in Happy Days as Joanie, the kid sister to high school student Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard. Other cast members included Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as Joanie’s parents, and Henry Winkler as the iconic “Fonz.”
Happy Days castmates (and other TV royalty from the time) expressed their condolences about Moran’s passing.
“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” Moran told Xfinity in 2009. “It was so surreal with all the cast members … They were my family, get it?”
Moran played the same character in the early ’80s sitcom Joanie Loves Chachi, a short-lived spinoff with Happy Days co-star Baio. In 2012, Moran was one of the Happy Days actors who won money in a merchandising payment lawsuit against CBS.
Her more recent credits included The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote, but she never approached the success of Happy Days and was more often in the news for her numerous personal and financial struggles. Some reports say she was occasionally homeless.
— With files from The Associated Press