Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Fact check: Image of Alec Baldwin wearing ‘Guns don’t kill people’ T-shirt is satire

In the wake of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death on the set of the movie “Rust,” conservative politicians and pundits have used the accidental shooting to make political points about gun control and to mock actor Alec Baldwin.
Court records say Baldwin fired a prop gun after being told by assistant director Dave Halls that the gun was safe to use, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. As investigators look into the specifics of the shooting, commentators on social media are shaming Baldwin, who has spoken out against the National Rifle Association.
An Oct. 22 Facebook image that accumulated more than 160 reactions within less than a week purports to show Baldwin wearing a black T-shirt, that says, “Guns don’t kill people Alec Baldwin kills people.”
The same photo was shared by Twitter, Instagram and Facebook users, along with Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield, who told USA TODAY in a direct message that the image has been widely circulated “to call attention to the hypocrisy of a man” who criticized the NRA and gun owners. 
Another Facebook user who shared the photo said the image was a meme and “satire only.” However, media literacy experts say memes can play a prominent role in spreading misinformation, and the user did not include any sort of disclaimer in their post.
The user said she removed her post after “realizing that a woman lost her life and how insensitive it was.”
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The photo has been manipulated, and is one of many pro-gun memes conservatives have shared relating to Baldwin’s involvement in the fatal Oct. 21 shooting. 
The other social media users did not return requests for comment.
The original image of Baldwin was captured on Aug. 27, 2013, and shows him wearing a plain black T-shirt with no text on it, Lead Stories reported.
The photo first appeared online in an article from the Hollywood Gossip about Baldwin shoving a freelance photographer in New York outside of a café, according to news reports.
The text was superimposed onto the photo of the actor shortly after Donald Trump Jr. started selling T-shirts with the message on his website.
Trump also shared the manipulated photo of Baldwin wearing the T-shirt to his Instagram story, according to the Independent, an online British news publication.
Several news outlets, including the Associated Press, Insider and New York Daily News, reported on Trump’s T-shirts mocking Baldwin.
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USA TODAY has previously debunked altered photos of celebrities and politicians wearing shirts with political messages on them.
The message seen on Baldwin’s shirt is not in line with his views on guns prior to and following the accidental shooting.
In 2018, Baldwin joined the “No Rifle Association Initiative,” according to the Guardian. That same year he criticized then-NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch’s show.
Baldwin and his family also took to social media to express remorse for the incident.
On Oct. 22, Baldwin tweeted, “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours.” He added that he is “fully cooperating” with the police investigation.
Based on our research, we rate SATIRE an image that shows Baldwin wearing a T-shirt that says “Guns don’t kill people Alec Baldwin kills people.” The original photo was taken in 2013 and shows the actor wearing a plain black shirt. The image was shared as a joke to mock a fatal prop gun accident involving Baldwin. 

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