While Fox News ignored the politically-motivated shootings at four NM Democrats’ homes, the same network loved talking about the upcoming charges for Alec Baldwin’s accidental shooting on the NM movie set of Rust.
Last night, I wrote that some Media Matters research indicated Fox News spent less than a minute on the arrest of Solomon Pena, a failed, election-denying MAGA candidate who conspired with four men to shoot at the homes of two state legislators and two county commissioners in December and January. Fortunately, no one was injured but Pena allegedly intended to cause serious injury or death.
Today, New Mexico prosecutors announced that Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, along with the film’s armorer.
Now, I fully understand the appeal of discussing the Rust case. It not only involves a celebrity, the details are horrific and sensational: Baldwin was rehearsing a scene with a gun when it went off and killed the film’s cinematographer.
That doesn’t make the story exponentially more important or more gripping than a MAGA candidate who could have killed four Democrats over politics.
But we know the real reason Fox is so interested in the Baldwin story: Unlike the MAGA would-be political assassin, Fox can weaponize this one against the left.
That includes Fox’s top America-hater, Tucker Carlson. I’m sure he wished Baldwin was Black. But Carlson did his best with the material he had to work with.
Carlson’s first swipe was to sneer, “I assume that a lot of actors who were, of course, against the Second Amendment probably don’t know a lot about guns.”
Guest Stu Brumbaugh quickly got with the program. “We’ve got a lot of Hollywood people that will vilify firearms and then end up on their TV shows and movies and glorify them,” he said, right off the bat.
Carlson cackled with malicious glee. Has Brumbaugh “ever seen an actor decline a role because it involves guns?” Carlson asked.
“I'm sure the paychecks far outweigh their feelings towards firearms,” Brumbaugh replied.
“So, I guess it goes without saying that a lot of these are people who really just don’t know anything about firearms,” Carlson said, suggesting that he wanted to hear that it was Baldwin’s hypocritical ignorance about guns that got the cinematographer killed.
Brumbaugh took the hint. He said has been a lifelong hunter, presumably unlike Baldwin. “I mean, you see them have these conversations on the news channels and with politicians and everything else about firearms,” he continued, when “they totally don’t understand even the mechanics of them to begin with and they’re trying to make their point across of why they’re so bad and evil and everything else and you know honest, hard-working citizens that, you know, love guns and, you know, my guns have never harmed anybody or never been in the hands of anybody that would do harm.”
Apparently Brumbaugh finds it hard not to tell lefty actors what he thinks of them. “You know, you just look at those scenarios and then you’re, you kind of have to keep quiet on these movie sets and end up working with these individuals,” he said.
You can watch it below, from the January 19, 2023 Tucker Carlson Tonight.
You are right, too, that the right has been after Alec Baldwin since before he played Trump on SNL. I recall way back when Fox harping on the angry, insulting voice mail he left for his daughter.
They also used to host his conservative brother fairly often. I think his name is Stephen.
I also recall a big deal when Alec had some kind of meltdown and altercation over a parking spot.
Baldwin made some frankly offensive comments about GOP congressmen just before they impeached President Clinton and had to walk them back. He made a comment in 2000 that he would leave the United States if George W Bush won the election. And he was a strong supporter of President Obama. And all of that was well before he began regularly lampooning Mike Pence’s childish personal spokesman on SNL.
Back in the early 1990s, angry Right Wingers loved Baldwin for his alpha male performances in movies like “Glengarry Glen Ross” and for being in “Hunt for Red October”. When his political preferences became publicly known, they turned on him and began inflating any misbehavior as a way to attack and diminish him. His unfortunate and mean-spirited message to his daughter about a decade ago is just one item they’ve repeatedly dredged up.
The current situation just shows that angry Right Wingers have not forgotten their hatred for him, and their fervent wish to see him sent to prison.
I note that Fox is not the only entity playing this game. Angry Right Wing AM radio shock jocks across the country have been expressing their glee at these charges. Disgraced former Fox personality Eric Bolling made a point of making several nasty statements about Baldwin, to the point of indicating his own utter ignorance about the entire matter. Inevitably, we will see a heck of a lot more of that before the matter is concluded. And if Baldwin is acquitted, as I believe he will be, those same angry Right Wing pundits will scream that the fix is in. Because the facts here don’t matter to the Right Wing – just their hatred for Baldwin.
1. The death of Halyna Hutchins was due to a total breakdown of what are long-established normal safety protocols regarding the use of firearms on film and television productions. Countless shows have used firearms with blank ammunition without injury. It’s the rare exception, like “Rust”, that gets the attention.
2. The “Rust” production, in its earlier form, was a low-budget show where the people minding the money were looking to get it done for as little as possible. Alec Baldwin is a listed producer as he helped develop the story and wanted to work with the director, Joel Souza, after missing an opportunity on Souza’s last movie. Baldwin was decidedly not involved in the budget details or the hiring of the crew. He was there as the lead actor and the face that had helped shape the movie and get it funded.
3. The exact circumstance of how the fatal shot got fired is detailed in the police report materials, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. The six-shooter revolver prop was a real six-shooter, which is commonplace in Westerns. Normally, it would be loaded with dummy rounds, ie rounds with no powder and no way to be fired. The camera would see if there were no rounds loaded, so dummies are fine to make the prop look functional. If the gun must fire, the armorer would load a blank cartridge with a small amount of powder to make a flash and bang but not have a projectile that could launch. The normal protocol for using a six-shooter is that the armorer will keep possession of the weapon until the moment it is needed for rehearsal and/or filming. The armorer will then present the weapon to the 1st Assistant Director as well as to the actor and to any crew that need to see it, showing them that the weapon is completely cleared and has nothing in the barrel and nothing else loaded. Each round is checked before being loaded, by individually shaking it so that you can hear the bb’s inside rattling, indicating there is no powder packed. The armorer then loads the rounds, aims the prop weapon at the floor and pulls the trigger seven times, to advance the chambers and show everyone that the weapon will not actually fire anything. If we’re using blanks, that’s a whole different discussion, so we’ll stay with just the dummies here.
4. Please remember that the weapon is specifically intended to be emptied and reloaded every time it is needed, and that full inspection must be done every time, so that everyone knows the prop is safe. I’ll add that we regularly remind everyone NEVER to point even a prop gun at anyone and to treat the weapon as if it was loaded with real bullets. Further, the ONLY people who are meant to even touch the weapon in question are the armorer and the actor, and the actor only gets it after we’ve done the full protocols and the actor is familiar with the weapon and its condition.
5. The “Rust” production was apparently behind schedule and a number of their camera crew had just quit the production in a dispute with the line producer and production manager over working conditions. The police materials indicate that the line producer and director Souza were dissatisfied with how long it was taking to get the scenes going, and with the delays in getting their coverage filmed.
6. Rust"’s armorer, Hannah Reed Guttierez, is the daughter of a well-established armorer named Thell Reed, with whom I’ve worked in the past. Thell is a solid crewman, and is known for being dependable in dealing with firearms and blank ammunition. His daughter is in her 20s and while she grew up with her dad doing this work, has very little of her own experience managing prop weapons on a movie set. For “Rust”, the production required her to do double duty in handling both general props and armorer work because the line producer did not wish to hire a separate armorer. For this reason, she had noted she felt overworked, but she continued to do the job anyway without any other discussion.
7. The person providing the dummy and blank ammunition for “Rust” was a man who makes that kind of material for productions in New Mexico and Texas, and he was simultaneously doing that work for “Yellowstone 1883”. According to him, another production required some live rounds, which he made and provided to them. Based on his accounts, and based on the police examination of the materials provided to “Rust”, he inadvertently mixed some live rounds in with the dummies and blanks going to “Rust”. This should have been caught by Guttierez as soon as she inspected the rounds, and if not then, it should have been caught when she inspected the rounds while loading them for each individual setup and rehearsal.
8. The production’s 1st Assistant Director, Dave Halls, had faced complaints about not being diligent about safety on other productions. The police materials include emailed reminders from the “Rust” producers to Halls that the crew were unhappy that he was not running proper safety meetings. There are also multiple accounts of misfires happening on the set with blank ammo at various times.
9. On the day of the accident, Guttierez only loaded the six-shooter once. It was early in the morning and she didn’t look carefully to see that each round was a dummy. She also did not show the weapon to anyone other than a cursory discussion with Dave Halls, who admits that he did not do anything more than a cursory look. During the morning’s filming, there were no incidents. The company went to lunch and the six-shooter was returned to Guttierez’ supervision. It either sat on the prop cart or in the prop truck while the crew ate. There is no indication that anyone tampered with the weapon, which Guttierez had never unloaded from the morning.
10. According to the police materials, right after lunch, Halls went to the prop cart where Guttierez was standing, which was on the ranch street right outside the church set where the company was filming. Halls picked up the six-shooter himself and was told by Guttierez it was still “cold”. So he walked into the set holding the weapon, announced that it was “cold” and then sat down in the church pew to stand in for Alec Baldwin until the actor could finish his makeup touchups. Baldwin came in shortly afterward. Halls then handed the six-shooter to Baldwin and called out “Cold Weapon!” to the set. Baldwin was now holding a real six-shooter that still had the original rounds from the early morning, and nobody had carefully checked them. I repeat that the 1st AD himself was handling the weapon rather than having the armorer do so, and the 1st AD was telling Baldwin and the crew that the weapon was safe when he had no idea if that was the case.
11. A few minutes later director Souza and DP Hutchins asked Baldwin to show them the action he was going to take so they could line up their next angle. Hutchins was standing in front of Baldwin and Souza was crouched next to her so that his shoulder lined up with the middle of her back. Baldwin then stood and drew the six-shooter for rehearsal and aimed it toward them, as they instructed. Baldwin admits having pulled the hammer back on the six-shooter but says he did not pull the trigger to fire the weapon. It has been shown that even having his finger in the trigger guard of a six-shooter could be enough to release the hammer as Baldwin was doing. When Baldwin released the hammer, it slammed into the back of the round currently in the chamber, which then fired. The bullet then went through Hutchins and lodged in the director’s shoulder. What happened afterward is what all the tabloids have reported.
Looking at that chain of events, we can discern the following:
A. Guttierez never properly inspected the rounds in the six-shooter. Had she done so, there would never have been a live round on that set. Let’s remember that nobody intended for a live round to be there. And even if we were to accept the fantasy that someone snuck and put a live round in the mix, that only points up the fact that the armorer never checked anyway. Had she been doing her job, the live round would have been removed and the supplier would have been terminated.
B. Halls, the 1st AD, never properly inspected the weapon or the rounds, and he never knew himself if the weapon was in fact safe. But he still announced “Cold Weapon!” to Baldwin and the crew, which of course turned out to be false. It would be unusual of Baldwin as an actor to disbelieve the AD telling him he had a safe weapon. Halls also handled the weapon himself, something that should never happen.
C. The six-shooter could have been repeatedly checked along with the rounds, had Guttierez and Halls followed the normal procedures, and during those checks it is certain that a live round would have been identified and removed. Since the procedures weren’t followed, the live round was allowed to get all the way into the firing chamber when the now dangerous weapon was placed in Baldwin’s hands.
D. Alec Baldwin as an actor could have asked to have the weapon and the rounds shown to him. It’s a normal part of the procedure and really should have been done without him asking. But the waters are muddied by the fact that the AD running the set told him that the weapon was safe. From what we’ve seen, Baldwin assumed that the AD had checked the gun for him and let it go at that.
Based on all this, we’ve now seen the New Mexico DA announce two involuntary manslaughter charges each on both Baldwin and Guttierez, with the second charge being tied to the six-shooter which would lead to a mandatory 5 year prison term in New Mexico if a jury finds each of them guilty. Halls has pled guilty to a lesser charge of “negligent handling of a firearm” and received 6 months probation.
My instincts are that Guttierez will take a plea deal fairly soon, given that her actions and her failure to take action are the core of this situation. If she’s looking at 5 years in prison, her attorney will advise her, as Halls’ attorney advised him, to get the lightest sentence possible and not spend a lot of time and money in court before being sent away for that long.
My instincts are that Baldwin will fight these charges in court and will almost certainly prevail. For a jury to find Baldwin guilty, they would have to do so “beyond a shadow of a doubt to a moral certainty”. Given that Halls told him the weapon was safe and called that out to the set, it is unlikely that an entire jury would place the blame on Baldwin for believing his set supervisor. It’s possible that he could be sent to prison, but it’s a very slim possibility. It’s a lot more likely that at least half the jury will say that he can’t be held responsible for believing the 1st AD, who is normally the person supervising the safety of the set.
Yes, Alec Baldwin played Trump on SNL and he was terrific, IMO.
The prosecutors said he should have checked the gun before using it and that he should not have fired it. It seems to be a matter of debate as to whether Baldwin had a duty to check the gun, himself. Personally, I think he should have, given that he had an inexperienced armorer, that she was doing double duty and that a lot of people felt that safety corners had been cut.
Whether he committed a crime by not checking the gun is another matter and I can’t say.
Playing the conspiracy game like a true-blue foxy, is it not possible that someone with a grudge against Baldwin (star and producer/employer, as well as the best imitator of the Dear Leader) might not have planted those bullets?
PS: Just how does one tell the difference between a live bullet and a blank, anyway?
If so, what’s the chances that this is payback time for Fox(not)News?