Home Entertainment Movies Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ comments may have hurt him, some experts say

Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ comments may have hurt him, some experts say

Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ comments may have hurt him, some experts say


Prosecutors waited until last week to announce they will charge Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a film set in New Mexico, but the 64-year-old actor has been advocating in the court of public opinion since the October 2021 incident.

The actor has defended himself in several high-profile interviews and social media posts denying responsibility for the shooting, even filing a lawsuit against the likes of the film’s gunsmith and first assistant director, whom he accuses of negligence.

Baldwin’s public approach to clearing his name is risky, according to some legal and crisis management experts, who suggested that by focusing on the story, Baldwin could have antagonized prosecutors and lost public sympathy.

“He should never have spoken out after the incident,” Susan M. Tellem, a senior partner at California-based firm Tellem Grody PR, said via email. “It set the stage for future legal trouble, and here we are.”

Some legal and crisis management experts say Alec Baldwin’s approach to clear his name after the deadly “Rust” set shooting is risky and damaging. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

“His training dictated that he would come out on top of this, take his position in the court of public opinion, put all of his statements and interviews out there and show the world that this was just a horrible accident, said David M. Schwartz, a partner at the New York and DC-based law firm Gerstmann Schwartz LLP. “In the world of court and criminal law, this is a real mistake.”

A representative for Baldwin did not immediately comment from the actor or his counsel.

The actor is expected to be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter after he wielded a .45 Long Colt revolver that fired and struck Hutchins on the set of the low-budget western film “Rust.” Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the gunsmith charged with checking guns for safety, faces the same charges. First assistant director Dave Halls has signed a plea deal to the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, prosecutors said.

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Alec Baldwin, crew member charged with involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting

Baldwin made his first public statement the day after the shooting, which took place on October 21, 2021. “I am fully cooperating with the police investigation to investigate how this tragedy occurred and I am in contact with her husband and offer him my support. and his family,” Baldwin said on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son and everyone who knew and loved Halyna.”

Less than two weeks later, Baldwin posted screenshots to Instagram with comments from “Rust” costume designer Terese Magpale Davis defending safety conditions on set. In December, he posted a letter from the cast and crew of “Rust” disputing the story that the film had a “chaotic, dangerous and exploitative workplace”. That same month, the actor gave a an hour-long primetime interview on ABC stating that he did not pull the trigger on the gun and that he did not feel responsible for Hutchins’ death.

“Someone put a live bullet into a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the premises,” Baldwin told the interviewer, George Stephanopoulos. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”

“I would never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger. Never,’ he said.

Last August, FBI forensics reported suggested that the gun would not have discharged if the trigger had not been pulled while the weapon was cocked. Nevertheless, Baldwin doubled down on his claims during a performance on Chris Cuomo’s Podcast. He blamed Gutierrez-Reed and Halls in a CNN interview later that month, saying “Those are the two people responsible for what happened.”

Renato Mariotti, a Chicago-based partner at the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and a former federal prosecutor, said that, from a legal standpoint, “there is some downside” to speaking to the media while subject to a criminal investigation.

“If Alec Baldwin said something to the public that helped him, he couldn’t make that statement at trial,” Mariotti said. “It would be hearsay. If the government tried to submit a statement that it thought was hurtful to him, it could. It would be considered an admission. … What he is doing is possibly giving the government the ammunition against him.

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Evan Nierman, CEO of Red Banyan, PR agency for global crises, said Baldwin seemed “unfortunately unprepared” during the interview with Stephanopoulos, which Nierman considers “the turning point” in a series of bad choices. Aside from Baldwin’s own public remarks, Nierman said, his attorney’s statement last week saying they were “blindsided” by the impending charges against the actor was also ill-advised. “It’s completely wrong to say, and all it does is reinforce this narrative that celebrities in general and Baldwin in particular are detached from reality,” he said. “How can you be shocked?”

While Baldwin probably had no malicious intent on set that day, Nierman suggested he could have elicited much more public sympathy by accepting a little responsibility.

“You can explain what happened. You can provide valuable context. You can defend your case. But if you are essentially unwilling to accept responsibility, then you are not bringing closure. All you’re doing is sparking more discussion,” Nierman said. “Baldwin made his problem infinitely worse because he was so bold in positioning himself as a victim.”

According to Rachel Fiset, a managing partner at the California firm, Baldwin’s public attempts to shift the blame could backfire legally. Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo.

“The distraction of blame constantly coming out of his mouth even as he struggled to deal with this accident – ​​because I think everyone believes it was an accident – ​​probably just rubbed [the prosecutors] the wrong way, because what prosecutors want to see is repentance,” Fiset said. “They want to see that someone has taken a thoughtful, measured approach to something as tragic as this and that it will never happen again.”

Baldwin alleged in a lawsuit in November that the shooting was caused by the negligence of Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of guns and ammunition on set; Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin and said it was safe; Sarah Zachry, who was in charge of props; and Seth Kenney, who provided the guns and ammunition on set. Halls filed a countersuit against Baldwin.

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“I don’t have as much of a problem with that as I do with the public statements,” Schwartz said, called the lawsuit “a good mechanism for getting your points out there.”

In October, Hutchins’ family settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Baldwin, companies involved in the production of “Rust” and several members of the crew. Under the terms of the settlement, “Rust” will resume shooting in January, with Hutchins’ widower Matthew serving as executive producer.

Nierman predicted that the film will receive a lot of attention due to morbid curiosity, which may not be good for Baldwin in the long run. “While there is no video of the incident itself,” he said, “this film will create indelible images of Alec Baldwin, in Western dress, holding a gun.”

Eriq Gardner, a national correspondent for Puck and former legal editor at large for the Hollywood Reporter, pointed out that Baldwin isn’t the only high-profile individual to publicly defend himself despite a pending lawsuit. Gardner noted that Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and CEO of fallen cryptocurrency giant FTX, who is facing several Justice Department charges, has defended himself in numerous interviews and a newly launched newsletter. “It used to be that if you became a defendant in the case, or you’re even a potential defendant in a case, you kept your mouth shut,” Gardner said. “You listen to your lawyers. You become very, very careful. I think that’s getting less now.”

Nierman said advising celebrity clients isn’t always an easy task. “They’ve done so many interviews for so many years that they feel impenetrable,” he said.

With Baldwin expected to face charges, Mariotti, the former federal prosecutor, said the actor should have his lawyers speak for him.

“Mr. Baldwin should exercise his right to remain silent,” he said, “which he should have done from the beginning.”



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