Happy Days cast members and fans have been mourning the death of Erin Moran, who played Richie Cunningham’s kid sister, Joanie, in both the original series and its short-lived spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi. Amid the tributes, there has also been discussion of Moran’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, a spiral that had seen Moran maintaining a low profile until 2012, when it was reported that she and her husband had been evicted from their Indiana trailer park. That troubled history has led some to speculate that substance abuse may have played a role in her death—including her Joanie Loves Chachi co-star, Scott Baio.
Baio was among the first to pay heartfelt tribute to Moran shortly after her death was announced, tweeting, “May people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal loving soul. I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin.” Yet as Variety reports, he struck a more pointed note during a radio interview with WABC’s The Bernie & Sid Show this morning:
I’m OK, a little shocked but not completely shocked that this happened. 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.
In addition to being cold, Chachi’s speculation was premature: Today the Harrison Country Sheriff’s Department announced that an autopsy revealed Moran had stage-four cancer. It also said that, while the results of toxicology tests are still pending, “no illegal narcotics were found at the residence.”
Not surprisingly, Baio has taken some backlash, and has so far spent the afternoon arguing the semantic importance of the word “If.” He’s also accusing others of only taking issue with his words because he supports Donald Trump.