** NOTE: This article contains sexually explicit language and may be disturbing to some readers. Please read at your own discretion. **
Alexander Polinsky, who was a child actor when he appeared on the ’80s sitcom, spoke out on Wednesday, saying Baio sexually harassed him and eventually assaulted him.
“I was sexually harassed by Scott Baio and ultimately assaulted by him between the ages of 12 and 15 years old,” Polinsky said at a news conference alongside Eggert and the pair’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom.
He went on to describe an alleged incident during his first year on the show when he claims to have seen Eggert sitting on Baio’s lap backstage. He was only 11 or 12 years old at the time, he attests. He says he saw Baio and Eggert developing a relationship on-set, and found it to be “distressing” considering her age. (Eggert was approximately 14 at the time, while Baio was in his mid-20s.)
“I was so naive, I innocently hopped on his lap, expecting to hear a story about Fonzie and Happy Days, something awesome. Scott Baio was a hero to me,” Polinsky said.
Instead, Baio threw him off of his lap and called him a “f****t,” said Polinsky. He claims Biao consistently used offensive slurs to describe him.
“I felt confusion, shame and then fear when I realized that I had judged the situation wrong. It was not innocent. It was sexual in nature,” he said.
After the lap-sitting, Polinsky claims, the abuse from Baio increased. The actor would often tell him, among other things, that he was unlovable and defective.
“Mr. Baio repeatedly told me about gay sex acts that he told me I would grow up to perform. I would protest and asked him to stop saying these things, but he said it was for my own good,” Polinsky said.
One particularly traumatizing incident Polinsky described at the press conference involved an allegation that Baio pulled down Polinsky’s pants in front of at least 100 people. He also accused Baio of cutting a hole in the wall of Polinsky’s dressing room, and Baio exposing his genitals to him through the hole.
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Polinsky also recalled another alleged interaction with Baio, when Polinsky jokingly faked throwing a basketball at Baio.
“He got startled, and in anger, he assaulted me by throwing a burning hot cup of tea in my face. I ran from the set crying. [Baio] later apologized, but the abuse continued,” Polinsky said.
Despite the alleged continuing abuse, Polinsky said, many adults aware of the situation on-set were too afraid to say anything to higher-ups out of fear of losing their jobs with the show.
“I’m praying for him in all of this. I still have hope he can realize his wrongdoings, apologize publicly, and we can all have some healing. In truth, that is all I am looking for — not fame, not money, not revenge — healing,” he said.
Eggert spoke after Polinsky finished, corroborating his story, saying he was constantly abused by Baio.
“As an adult, I carry huge guilt that I was part of this in any way,” she said. “I feel horrible and guilty that I didn’t stand up for him at the time, but I myself was a child. We were children, and I was also enduring my own abuse from Scott Baio, so it was hard for me to stand up for anybody else when I was trying to find my own truth.”
“[He was] berated with horrendous homosexual slurs all because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessed something he was not supposed to see,” continued Eggert. “It is never too late to start your healing process and take care of yourself.”
“There is a longer statute of limitations in California for acts of child sexual abuse against a minor under the age of 18, which both of them were at the time,” Bloom added, saying both Eggert and Polinsky have spoken to the police, and there is a possibility of criminal action.
A rep spoke on Baio’s behalf at the press conference, saying, “For reasons I don’t understand, I am the target of false claims that threaten everything that’s important in my life, but [I’m] mostly stunned that anyone could be so cruel.”
Baio’s lawyer, Jennifer McGrath, said that Baio will co-operate fully with any LAPD investigation into these claims. The ’80s heartthrob has also hired a criminal lawyer to take legal action.
None of these allegations has been proven in court, and Baio has not been charged with any crime.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.
— With files from ET Canada