Political foes go after Alec Baldwin over fatal film set shooting

Right-wing pundits and politicians mock liberal actor, who has been a vocal advocate of gun-law reforms

Details are still surfacing about how Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on a New Mexico film set, but some political onlookers swiftly assigned guilt to one of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals.

Right-wing pundits and politicians have long chafed at Baldwin’s criticism of former US president Donald Trump and his Trump parody on the comedy show Saturday Night Live. They wasted little time zeroing in on the actor who pulled the trigger. The hashtag #AlecForPrison ricocheted around Twitter.

Within hours of the shooting, Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance asked Twitter to let Mr Trump back on the social media platform that banned him after the Capitol insurrection.

“We need Alec Baldwin tweets,” Mr Vance wrote.

By Monday, Mr Trump’s oldest son was selling $28 T-shirts on his official website with the slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.” The post was later removed.

Gun violence has long divided the US, but the fact that some observers seemed to revel in Baldwin’s role in the shooting added a political dimension to the tragedy.

Court records provided some details about the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Authorities have said that the assistant director, Dave Halls, handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun”, indicating that the weapon was safe to use.

In an affidavit released on Sunday night, the film’s director, Joel Souza, said Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he drew a revolver from his holster and pointed it towards the camera, which Hutchins and Mr Souza were behind. Mr Souza, who was wounded by the shot, said the scene did not call for the use of live rounds.

It is not clear yet where the gun-handling protocol failed. Mr Souza said the movie’s guns were usually checked by armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and then again by Mr Halls.

At least two people have aired doubts about Mr Halls’s safety record.

In the affidavit, cameraman Reid Russell said Baldwin had been careful with weapons. Mr Russell was unsure whether the weapon was checked before it was handed to Baldwin.

In the aftermath of Hutchins’s death, many in the film industry have argued that real guns should be replaced entirely by computer-generated effects.

And yet, as director Gigi Saul Guerrero observed, Baldwin has been the “face to this tragic story”. The 63-year-old actor, a vocal advocate of gun-law reforms, has been widely mocked by the far-right on social media.

“Literally not one single thing that Alec Baldwin has said about Donald Trump and his supporters is going to age well,” tweeted conservative commentator Candace Owens.

Lauren Boebert, a Republican representative for Colorado, cited a tweet of Baldwin’s last year supporting Black Lives Matter protesters in which Baldwin said he was going to make T-shirts that read: “My hands are up. Please don’t shoot me!”

Ms Boebert wrote: “Alec Baldwin, are these still available? Asking for a movie producer.”

The representative received widespread criticism. Actor George Takei said Ms Boebert had “no soul”. Actress Rosanna Arquette wrote: “This was a tragic and horrible accident. Ms Boebert ... you should be ashamed of yourself [for] politicising it.”

But Ms Boebert stood by her tweet.

You “want to take away our right to defend ourselves with a firearm, and know nothing about basic gun safety!” Ms Boebert wrote. “If this was a conservative celebrity, you’d be calling for his head.”

A spokesman for the film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, has said it is co-operating with authorities and conducting an internal review. The company said it was halting production on the film but signalled it may resume in the future.

Baldwin has said he is co-operating with investigators and described the shooting as a “tragic accident".

Updated: October 28th 2021, 5:05 AM
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