Mothers of murdered children, victims/survivors from the Orlando mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, the club’s owner and GLAAD have pressed Univision not to air a segment on its weekend crime show Crónicas de Sábado titled “Baño De Sangre” (it translates to Blood Bath), about last year’s massacre that killed 49 people and injured hundreds more physically and/or mentally. Ads for Blood Bath that showed a re-enactment inside the nightclub shooting in gory detail, including showing bloody bodies piled on top of each other, were pulled by Univision after victims spoke up, but they are pushing forward to air the show at 6:55 pm ET today.
Many of the victims we spoke with said victims were taken advantage of by Univision for nothing more than ratings and ad sales. Some of the victims, as a desperate attempt, told Deadline that they are sending cease and desist letters to the producers of the show. One mother told Deadline that no one would think of re-enacting the Sandy Hook massacre, so why is it being done with Pulse?
At least four of the young men who spoke to Univision for the segment have said the interviews happened so quickly after the June 12 massacre that they were traumatized and grief-stricken and thought they were doing it for the news. On Wednesday and Thursday, a producer for Blood Bath started calling the victims, trying unsuccessfully to get them to sign releases ahead of tonight’s airdate.
“They told me that they had conducted an interview with me a while ago but I couldn’t remember it. She said we didn’t have the paperwork for my interview and they wanted to get it signed,” said Orlando Torres, who survived the shooting in the Pulse bathroom by playing dead. “I never did sign the release form. I felt like they were trying to trick me. I put my faith in Univision and they are doing this to me? They even knocked me off their Facebook page when I objected and wrote a statement that they tried to trick me signing this release form for this show.
“They even have someone playing my part, some actor. The gunman touched me and I thought he was going to shoot me in the back. I played dead. I didn’t want that being re-enacted. What are they thinking?” he added. “Emotionally, this is distressing me. I broke down and cried.”
Torres said he was told by three friends who saw the promo that they appear to be using his story, and the actor even looks like him. “They never have had my permission to do something like this,” he said.
Another survivor said he also was called. “They called me on Thursday asking me to sign a release so that their entertainment show could air and they also called Norman Casiano,” Angel Colon, who survived the shooting, told Deadline. “They called me again a few hours later and said that the rest of the show would not be like the promo clip and asked me yet again to sign. I said no. I even sent them an email telling them that they do not have my consent to air the program. We had no idea our interviews were going to be used in this way, dramatizing scenes with people getting shot like that. We were not told. They wanted my story and I talked to them months ago after this happened in like October, but we thought it was for the news not an entertainment program. I feel taken advantage of. They misled us completely because we had no idea (our interviews) would be used in such a distasteful manner for entertainment purposes.”
Casiano confirmed to Deadline that the producer also reached out to him to sign a release and he refused the same day, on Thursday. “I feel used,” he said.
Univision did not return an email seeking comment about whether they had any releases from any or all of those interviewed for Blood Bath. Deadline has learned that on Friday, they began telling victims in correspondence that the show is “journalistic,” apparently to get around having to get releases to use interviews and names for an entertainment crime show.
Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who with his boyfriend Juan Guerrero was killed in the nightclub shooting, said from what she saw of the promos for the show, it’s not factual.
“To distort reality for shock value at my son’s expense is as ugly as a story can get,” she said. “My son lived a wonderful and respectful life of great character. He happened to die in a horrific massacre. That fact alone is hard enough to overcome as I grieve. And to think that they are making a total mockery of these young people’s lives is outrageous. Who is protecting the dignity of the dead? Who is respecting the victims who survived as they try to deal with the reality of their ordeal?
“Imagine if this were done to the first graders at Sandy Hook and the massacre there was recreated and sci-fi details were added to add insult to an already horrific event with weird events that didn’t even happen. Even five years later we as a decent society wouldn’t allow for it. Why with Pulse? Why so soon, if ever?,” said Leinonen, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention this year flanked by friends of her son in support.
So far, Univision is planning on moving forward, save for a last-minute intervention from executives. The network put out this statement today: “Univision has set out to create a report that is deeply respectful to the many people whose lives were impacted by this tragedy and, at the same time, is faithful to the facts underlying this horrible crime.”
However, victims, survivors and others impacted are signing petitions, talking to local Orlando media, taking to social media and sending letters talking about their “disgust” and “devastation” with Univision’s decision to move forward. Some of them are pleading for Univision not to hurt them further.
“They got some of the survivors to do interviews, but then used it for re-enactments without telling anyone what they were going to use it for. We tried to reach the interviewer, the station, and Univision to ask them to please not air this. We are trying everything we can to move forward and we are asking them please to stop this because it is causing further pain for us. This is bringing us backwards. This is hurting us. Why are they doing this to us knowing that it is hurting us?” said Mayra Alvear, whose daughter Amanda was killed in the club along with her friend Mercedes Flores. In the group of 11 that Amanda was with, four died, three were wounded and at least two survived. “Why doesn’t Univision care about us?”
Barbara Poma, owner of the nightclub, told Deadline: “I’ve spoken to them (the victims) and they did not realize, in their grief, what Univision was going to do with that information that they were asked about. I’m upset that they were taken advantage of in their darkest moments. I saw the video promo, I was driving and had to pull over. I was in shock. Univision is re-victimizing the victims only nine months after what happened. It’s a sleazy exploitation to try to get ratings. How can they do this and to their own community?” Poma, through her lawyer, exchanged letters with Univision to try to stop the program from airing, but Univision wrote back saying it was airing it for the benefit of history, just like the Holocaust had to be reported.
A petition has been also started by Deborah Whiteley, who suffered the death of three friends at Pulse, states:
Boycott this show, call the station and tell them we will not support them getting rich off of others’ pain and will not allow them to make up events and stories that never happened. Let the families and survivors heal.
If you are not doing something to help our community and support those affected by 6/12/16, you are only causing more pain and we, as a community, gay and straight will stand together and fight against your hate, your propaganda and your greed.
Finally, GLAAD, sent out the following statement: “GLAAD strongly urges Univision not to air the upcoming segment of Crónicas de Sábado on the Pulse Nightclub shooting which includes a re-enactment and the sensationalist title Baño de Sangre (Blood Bath). This show’s promotional videos alone have upset many – airing far too soon after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which targeted the Latino LGBTQ community,” said the statement. “While GLAAD has not seen the segment in its entirety, if the ad is any indication, this could be a traumatic experience for many who are trying to heal from this tragedy.”