According Deadline, the union said in a statement that the film’s producers “failed to comply with LA County Health Orders and SAG-AFTRA protocols in connection with COVID-19.” There were also problems related to child actors, and “California regulations related to minor performers.” Baio and Swanson, who are not personally accused of wrongdoing, have suggested that Deadline and SAG-AFTRA are targeting them for their conservative views.
The news comes on the heels of California re-opening film and television production. Filming was allowed to resume on June 12th, and SAG-AFTRA issued the Do Not Work notice the next day on June 13th. Deadline caught the story on June 15th, and that article set off angry tweetstorms from the two stars.
The film itself, Courting Mom & Dad is produced by Revenge Movies LLC. Baio and Swanson play soon-to-be divorced parents whose children try to stop their split by hiring a personal injury lawyer. While SAG-AFTRA’s statement did not specify the nature of the violations, it did instruct all union members to “withhold any acting services or performance of any covered work for this production until further notice.” It went on to note that, “Violating this order may result in disciplinary action.”
Neither Baio nor Swanson are producers on the project, and neither have been named in violating any rules. But Baio, who played Chachi on Happy Days, and Swanson, who originated Buffy Summers in the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, are two of the more outspoken Donald Trump supporters in Hollywood. In a series of Twitter posts, the pair suggested that Deadline’s story and SAG-AFTRA’s Do Not Work order were an attempt to silence conservative voices.
Both attacked the reporting and credibility of Deadline, even though SAG-AFTRA’s statement came out days earlier. Baio pointed out that he and Swanson “had already wrapped this film when this happened,” suggesting that the article was “clickbait.” He also shared photos of a child getting a “blood/cheek swab” — presumably testing for COVID-19 — as well as images of an outdoor film shoot with crew members wearing masks. He concluded that post with the hashtag “#hitjob.”
Swanson was apparently incensed that Deadline referred to the film as a “Scott Baio-Kristy Swanson Movie”, even though she was not a producer accused of wrongdoing. In two separate tweets, she demanded that Deadline “explain your misleading fake headline.” But within entertainment media — especially within headline writing — it’s common practice to identify projects with their starriest names. If THR or Variety write about an “Octavia Spencer film”, few readers would guess that Ms. Spencer was the sole decision maker on the movie. Swanson calling the headline “misleading” ignores a standard journalistic convention while assuming that readers are stupid.
Neither Baio nor Spencer directly criticized SAG-AFTRA, instead preferring to shoot the messenger. But both re-tweeted others suggesting a liberal conspiracy. Swanson shared a post from Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce accusing the union of trying to “blacklist” conservatives. Bruce wrote, “Hi @sagaftra, despite effort to disguise, looks like you’re engaging in a #BLACKLIST of performers. I thought those lessons were learned in the mid-20th century. Do you need Kristy to sign a loyalty agreement.”
Most Do Not Work orders are eventually rescinded after producers come to a new agreement with the union. But in the meantime, Baio and Swanson are working hard to whip up conservative support for the project. It’s reminiscent of the social media strategy employed by President Trump. He, too, attacks journalists and media outlets without getting bogged down in whether the actual reporting is true. He also uses re-tweets to amplify angrier, more conspiratorial viewpoints. Considering that some of the cogs at Fox News have taken notice, it seems like Baio and Swanson’s strategy worked.
This is probably not the last business venture to reopen and then re-shut down over coronavirus concerns. Already we’re seeing some of the negative effects of opening too soon; Elon Musk’s Tesla factory has “several cases” of COVID-19, and may run afoul of the Alameda County Public Health Department. But for some, California’s pandemic response has been hopelessly restrictive — Joe Rogan is threatening to move to Texas because of it.
If any of this is true, then it is protocol that SAG would personally contact me to discuss the matter. I have scrolled through this past weeks calls, missed calls & voice mail messages, SAG has NOT contacted me to investigate. So, please explain your misleading fake headline. https://t.co/TRbeLexPar
— Kristy Swanson (@KristySwansonXO) June 16, 2020
You still failed to explain your misleading fake headline tho. We’ll wait… https://t.co/PtsYayDUytAdvertisement
— Kristy Swanson (@KristySwansonXO) June 16, 2020
, @DEADLINE,I'm still waiting 4ur https://t.co/W45GfMkF5R's been 26hrs.Why didn't u contact me or @KristySwansonXO 4 a statement since u happily used our names 4 a "clickbait" headline?Biased much?Did u know Kristy & I had already wrapped this film when this happened? @sagaftra https://t.co/H2d5i7O7xV
— Scott Baio (@ScottBaio) June 17, 2020
Hi @sagaftra, despite effort to disguise, looks like you’re engaging in a #BLACKLIST of performers. I thought those lessons were learned in the mid-20th century. Do you need Kristy to sign a loyalty agreement? 🤷🏻♀️ https://t.co/JPauKj2aHb
— Tammy Bruce (@HeyTammyBruce) June 17, 2020