June 19th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
An Open Letter To Mr. Alec Baldwin:
Today when you attacked photographers who were waiting outside the city Marriage License Bureau in New York City, it was not the first time that you’ve assaulted members of the very media who helped to make your name a household word. It’s been reported that after today’s incident you Tweeted, “A ‘photographer’ almost hit me in the face with his camera this morning. #allpaparazzishouldbewaterboarded.” You then continued to display your insensitivity by Tweeting, “I suppose if the offending paparazzi was wearing a hoodie and I shot him, it would all blow over …”.
Rather than make light of a national racial tragedy, I suggest that if you don’t want to be recognized when you go out in public it is you who should be wearing something over your head.
Eyewitnesses to today’s incident report that not only were the photographers not near you at the time you aggressively went after them, but that they were in retreat as you continued your unprovoked assault. Whether you like it or not, you are a public figure involved in a newsworthy event. And as you well know from your lifetime of celebrity public life, there is no expectation of privacy on a public street.
No one is really surprised that you continue to act in this manner, given past performances. But as a former photojournalist who is now general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), I object to your combative actions against photographers who were doing nothing more than waiting to take your photograph, an activity you’ve willingly participated in thousands of times, posing when you thought it was in your best interest.
I do not know whether those you attacked have filed assault charges, but I hope they do. Because until you and others like you are held accountable for your actions, this supposed “open season” on photographers will unfortunately continue. It is all too easy to denigrate working journalists by calling them “paparazzi,” but not all photographers deserve that demeaning title, just as all actors are not boors or bullies.
For someone who is politically active and who routinely calls for holding the government accountable, which is one of the central roles of the press, it is more than a little disappointing to watch you literally attack the media as you did today. I hope you pause to reflect on your criminal actions. Just think of the nice images you could have made walking hand in hand together, rather than the headlines you’ll get tomorrow for committing assault.
Normally I spend my time dealing with misguided police officers or security guards who incorrectly believe that they can abridge a person’s First Amendment rights to photograph and record in public. Maybe today you took your cues from them. In any case, the next time you see an adoring fan or anyone with a camera who is waiting to take your picture on a public street, why not just count to 10 and say “cheese.” In the meantime, please don’t assault the news photographers who are diligently working to earn a living wage.