He’s, admittedly, a fairly unsympathetic figure.
Alec Baldwin, the actor, short-time talk show host, Donald Trump impersonator and longtime villain of the right, has said and done some pretty lamentable things over the past few decades. He’s been sued for assault in several attacks on paparazzi. He was arrested for punching a man in the face during a parking spot dispute. He’s used homophobic slurs, for which he was reportedly fired by MSNBC. And even left a scathing voicemail for his then-11-year-old daughter, in which he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig.”
His anger issues are well-documented, as is his politics. He alone is to blame for his reputation and public image.
He is not to blame, however, for a tragic and horrific accidental shooting on the set of a movie he was working on.
That’s according to witnesses and court documents that describe the incident, in which cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured. (Authorities say they haven’t ruled out charges, but it seems highly unlikely that Baldwin has any true culpability here.)
Production has been halted, Baldwin is cooperating fully, and news of ongoing safety complaints and other on-set shooting accidents has opened a startling new conversation about gun safety on film sets. It’s an important conversation — as Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” pointed out, “Hollywood movies love using fake versions of real things for everything, except guns.”
But for some on the right, Baldwin’s tragic accident is an opportunity — a grotesque kind of comeuppance for being, well, a jerk, and more to the point, a jerk who openly supports more gun control. Somehow, to them, it’s just too delicious to resist driving home the point that someone who wants to restrict other people’s access to firearms has accidentally killed someone with a prop gun. Apparently, they think this is ironic.
Don Trump Jr. was quick to mock — and profit off of — the tragedy, posting pro-gun memes and even selling a T-shirt on his website that reads “guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.”
Other right-wing personalities, from Candace Owens to Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, piled on, using the opportunity to presumably rile up and delight their fans on Twitter — Owens said the incident was “poetic justice” — all while Hutchins’ family prepared to bury her.
Baldwin’s daughter Ireland took to Instagram to pointlessly, I’m sure, remind Owens, “A woman’s life was lost. Your tweets, lack of information, and ignorance are hurting people.”
To parse the so-called “politics” of the right wing’s morbid schadenfreude over an innocent woman’s accidental death is an exercise in futility and frustration.
Of course, Baldwin’s gun control stance isn’t weakened but affirmed by this incident, in which real guns and real ammunition were inappropriately handled by the armorers and prop masters who should have been responsible for them.
Responsible gun owners don’t delight in accidental shootings; we lament them.
No matter how much one dislikes Alec Baldwin for his pugnacity or his politics, it’s hard not to feel for him and his family in this difficult time. He’s responsible for accidentally killing a colleague, a wife, a mother to a 9-year-old son. Who could live with that kind of guilt?
Then again, there’s little compassion left in conservatism, at least the kind Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush liked to espouse. To many on the right, there’s one and only one objective these days: to own the libs, to grind them into the dust, even if that means hollowing out your own moral code in the process. That was evidenced in the giddy jig the movement’s current leader performed on Colin Powell’s grave just last week. Former President Donald Trump blasted the war hero as a “RINO,” and sociopathically ended his cruel rant by shrugging, “But anyway, may he rest in peace!”
Earlier this year, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of a past sexual assault and hiding during the Capitol insurrection, wondering if she’d live to be a mother one day, right-wing nuts called her a liar, and accused her of needing “coddling.”
Sure, the left has its own cruelty toward Republicans, but not much that approaches quite this level of nastiness, reveling in other people’s pain.
Apparently there are no actual people in politics anymore, just avatars. And unfortunately for Baldwin, he isn’t a victim in this tragedy, but merely an avatar — one that deserves, apparently, to be kicked when he’s down. Why? Because, again, to steal Adam Serwer’s perfect summary of the Trump approach to politics, the cruelty is the point.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.