In fatal shooting, some political foes take aim at Baldwin
Published Tuesday, October 26, 2021 12:59AM EDT
NEW YORK -- Details are still emerging 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 U.S. President Donald Trump and his Trump parody on "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 J.D. Vance asked Twitter to let Trump back on the social media platform that banned him after the Capitol insurrection. "We need Alec Baldwin tweets," Vance wrote.
By Monday, 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 country, but the fact that some observers seemed to revel in Baldwin's role in the shooting added a political dimension to the tragedy. CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday called Hutchins' death "heartbreaking for normal people."
"But there's something about our politics right now that is driving people away from our shared humanity," Tapper said.
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 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 toward the camera, which Hutchins and Souza were behind. Souza, who was wounded by the shot, said the scene did not call for the use of live rounds.
It's not clear yet where the gun-handling protocol failed. Souza said the movie's guns were usually checked by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and then again by Halls.
At least two people have aired doubts about Halls' safety record.
In an email statement to The Associated Press, a producer for the movie "Freedom's Path" confirmed Monday that Halls was fired from the 2019 production after a crew member suffered a minor injury "when a gun was unexpectedly discharged." The producer, who asked not to be identified by name, wrote that Halls "was removed from the set immediately." Production did not resume until Halls was gone.
Prop maker Maggie Goll on Sunday said she filed an internal complaint in 2019 over concerns about Halls' behavior on the set of Hulu's "Into the Dark" series. Goll said Halls disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician, who was diabetic, lost consciousness on set.
Neither Gutierrez-Reed nor Halls have responded to requests for comment on the shooting.
In the affidavit, cameraman Reid Russell said Baldwin had been careful with weapons. Russell was unsure whether the weapon was checked before it was handed to Baldwin.
In the aftermath of Hutchins' death, many in the film industry have argued that real guns should be replaced entirely by computer-generated effects.
"There should not have been a loaded gun on set," actor Riley Keough wrote on Instagram. "We don't need real guns, we can make replicas, and we have CGI. In my opinion, that is the issue here. Not Alec Baldwin."
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.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, 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!" Wrote Boebert: "Alec Baldwin, are these still available? Asking for a movie producer."
Boebert received widespread criticism. Actor George Takei said Boebert had "no soul." Actress Rosanna Arquette wrote: "This was a tragic and horrible accident. Ms. Boebart and you should be ashamed of yourself politicizing it." But Boebert stood by her tweet.
"You crazy Blue Checks want to take away our right to defend ourselves with a firearm, and know NOTHING about basic gun safety!" Boebert wrote. "If this was a conservative celebrity you'd be calling for his head."
The film's chief electrician, Serge Svetnoy, blamed producers for Hutchins' death in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. Svetnoy faulted "negligence and unprofessionalism" among those handling weapons on the set, and claimed producers hired an inexperienced armorer.
"I'm sure that we had the professionals in every department, but one -- the department that was responsible for the weapons," Svetnoy wrote. "The person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it. And the DEATH OF THE HUMAN IS THE RESULT!"
A spokesman for the film's production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, has said it is cooperating with authorities and conducting an internal review. The company said it was halting production on the film but signaled it may resume in the future.
Baldwin has said he is cooperating with the law enforcement investigation and described the shooting as a "tragic accident."
Associated Press writers Hillel Italie in New York and Lindsey Bahr in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.