A campaign opposing a Newport Beach ballot measure that would allow voters to elect their mayor posted a fictional “Godfather”-style video over the weekend on social media in which an actor playing a Newport Beach mayor and proponent of the measure is shot multiple times in the chest.
The “Stop the Power Grab — No on B” campaign quickly removed the video from its social media platforms.
“The video is disgusting and incredibly tone deaf, especially for the time that we are going through right now in our country,” said Will O’Neill, a Newport Beach City Council member and former mayor who is pushing Measure B. “It’s a very real phenomenon for unstable individuals to fixate on public figures, and they don’t need any extra motivation, like a video depicting a shooting of a mayor would create.”
Gary Cruz, who described himself as one of 15 people on the committee opposing the measure, said the “No on B” campaign was not involved in the creation of the video.
“It happened,” Cruz said. “We’re not proud of it. We’re not happy that it happened. We had nothing to do with it. It got up on our site by mistake.”
Cruz said no one on the campaign reviewed the video before it was posted on social media. He also echoed a statement that “No on B” posted on its Instagram and Facebook accounts saying the committee did not commission or pay for the video.
“We apologize to anyone who was offended or concerned by the content of this satirical video,” the committee said in a statement.
“No on B” reported that it paid Good Morning Newport $1,500 for the “cost to produce one episode,” according to a campaign finance disclosure form covering the period from April 24 through May 21. The campaign said that money paid for a different video that was published to YouTube on May 9.
The May 9 video and the video depicting a shooting are among a series of three fictional “Godfather” videos created by Good Morning Newport that advocate against the measure, repeating the theme that it would give the mayor too much power over the rest of the council and lead to corruption.
One actor plays four different mayors from Anaheim, Irvine, Santa Ana and Newport and a constituent from the Democratic Party in the video. None are mentioned by name, but dialogue suggests the character of the Newport mayor is based on O’Neill, who served as mayor in 2020 and is a main proponent of the ballot measure. Using special effects, the fictional character is shot multiple times at the end of the video, with graphic images of fake blood spurting from his chest.
Alex Crawford, the creator of Good Morning Newport and solo actor in the video, said in a statement posted online that it “was in no way shape or form intending to depict real people or real Newport Beach mayors.”
“Statements saying that it was advocating for violence, depicting real violence towards real people, anything to that nature, those statements are false,” he said in the statement, describing it as “political satire.”
O’Neill, who believes he is being depicted in the video, said he sent the video to the Newport Beach Police Department before he participated in the Balboa Island Parade on Sunday morning with his family.
“My wife was worried,” O’Neill said. “This is so far beyond the pale for what would be acceptable.”