As Tiana Lowe quipped, this might qualify as the worst attempt at a public-relations rebound since Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview with the BBC. In both cases, one has to wonder why figures at the center of legal action chose to speak publicly in the first place. Rather than express remorse for his actions in the sequence of events that ended in the death of Halyna Hutchins, Alec Baldwin told George Stephanpoulos that he didn’t feel any guilt or take any responsibility for her death or the wounding of the Rust director — even though Baldwin cocked the gun without apparently checking it himself first.
It’s such a stunning statement that ABC News leads with it:
.@GStephanopoulos: "Do you feel guilt?"
Alec Baldwin: “No. Someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2021
Hours after his moment of reflection, Baldwin was holding an antique Colt .45 revolver during a marking rehearsal for the film, when the prop gun discharged a live bullet, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Baldwin said. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
Baldwin sat down with Stephanopoulos to sift through the series of events that led to Hutchins’ death, saying he had no reason to suspect a live bullet could be in the prop gun. He also discussed the criticism, litigation and investigations surrounding the incident.
“I don’t know what happened on that set. I don’t know how that bullet arrived in that gun. I don’t know,” Baldwin said. “But I’m all for doing anything that will take us to a place where this is less likely to happen again.”
Baldwin claimed he never pulled the trigger, but he “let go of the hammer” after cocking it:
To get the shot, Baldwin said he needed to cock the gun, but not fire it: “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger.”
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin said. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
“So, you never pulled the trigger?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Baldwin said. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”
Torraco, Halls’ attorney, corroborated Baldwin’s account on Thursday, saying Halls told her “from day one” that he was watching from three or four feet away and “the entire time Baldwin had his finger outside the trigger guard parallel to the barrel … that Alec did not pull that trigger.”
If he dropped the hammer without checking the round first, it likely makes no difference. Stephen Gutowski explains at The Reload why this explanation is hard to believe anyway:
When the hammer is pulled back on a single-action revolver a series of sears on engaged which prevent it from moving back towards the chamber without the trigger being depressed. There are scenarios where the gun might be able to fire after the hammer is pulled back but without the trigger being pulled. However, they’re even more unlikely than a misfire with the hammer all the way down.
The first is that Baldwin managed to pull the hammer back far enough that releasing created a strong enough strike against the primer to set it off, but not far enough to engage the sear at quarter or half cock. That is, frankly, implausible.
The next possibility is a physical defect with the gun. The sears could have been so worn out they don’t catch the hammer as Baldwin manipulates it. But, that’s not likely either since it would be clear to anyone who handled the gun that it was broken.
What seems far more likely is Baldwin kept the trigger depressed as he pulled the hammer back. Then, when he released the hammer, the trigger kept the sears out of the way, and the gun fired. Perhaps Baldwin is making some kind of semantic argument about pulling a trigger rather than keeping it depressed while cocking the hammer, but that’s a distinction without a difference.
The most likely scenario remains that Baldwin had his finger on the trigger when the gun fired. His full comments make that even more likely.
We can put this more simply. Baldwin held the gun when it fired. Bullets do not spontaneously fire on their own. Ergo, whatever caused the bullet to fire had to be caused by Baldwin in some way. And regardless of whether one thinks a firearm has a live round in it or not, it’s gross negligence to point a working firearm at any person ever unless it’s in self-defense or legal defense of another. Period.
We’ll certainly know more at the trial, whether it’s civil, criminal, or both. That’s probably when Baldwin should have waited to lay out this series of claims too. By speaking publicly now, Baldwin locks himself into a series of claims which evidence may later contradict. If so, Baldwin has already impeached himself and that may make him more vulnerable to prosecution on criminal grounds, and certainly in the wrongful-death lawsuit to come. This is precisely why people involved in these kinds of incidents shouldn’t go on national television or anywhere else to offer “explanations.” They should let their attorneys do all the talking until absolutely necessary otherwise.
This is even worse, from a PR standpoint. Baldwin may not have loaded the live round, but the pistol he held fired it anyway — after Baldwin apparently didn’t check for safety himself before pointing the weapon at Hutchins and director Joel Souza. Instead of taking responsibility for what were undeniably his own actions, Baldwin instead paints himself as a victim with no moral responsibility for what transpired, let alone legal responsibility, even as one of the producers of the film with a duty to ensure safety on the set.
In its way, it’s as absurd a statement as Darrell Brooks’ complaint that the media had turned him into a “dehumanized … monster.” Both men ought to seriously consider all of the benefits that flow from keeping their mouths shut while the wheels of justice turn, rather than open them and help grease those wheels.