NBC should be held liable for the editing of George Zimmerman’s 911 call in ways that made Zimmerman appear to be a racist.
In a grotesque and apparently malicious act of misreporting, NBC, in multiple broadcasts, aired doctored, heavily edited versions of the 911 call, misleadingly moving around Zimmerman’s words like a Rubik’s Cube. The result gave a false impression of the tragic incident in which Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and it exposed Zimmerman to the hatred, scorn and contempt of millions of viewers.
Zimmerman is suing NBC and the network is fighting back. But the network’s actions, and its responses to complaints, indicate it willfully and knowingly damaged Zimmerman’s reputation.
This is part of the actual February 26, 2012, conversation between Zimmerman and a police dispatcher:
Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department.
Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, it’s Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
Now compare that to what NBC reported on March 19, 2012, deleting the dispatcher’s critical question to make it sound as if Zimmerman both: (a) volunteered that Trayvon was black and, worse yet, (b) said Trayvon was up to no good because he was black. According to NBC’s report, Zimmerman stated:
“He looks like he’s up to no good, he looks black.”
The dispatcher’s key question, asking for Trayvon’s race, curiously wound up on the cutting room floor.
The following day, on March 20, 2012, NBC doubled down, this time via another reporter relaying that Zimmerman had stated, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something. He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.”
But the actual audio portion, wherein Zimmerman referenced a “black male” later in the call, was as follows, in which he is simply further describing what the dispatcher asked earlier, since the police are on their way:
Dispatcher: That’s the clubhouse, do you know what the- he’s near the clubhouse right now?
Zimmerman: Yeah, now he’s coming towards me.
Zimmerman: He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.
It gets worse. The same day, NBC struck again, reporting on NBC Nightly News and the MSNBC website:
Sanford Police say that Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in self-defense, a shooting without racial overtones, no hate crime. But when Zimmerman was calling the police the night Trayvon Martin was killed, he described the victim using a racial epithet.
Just one problem: at no time did Zimmerman use a racial epithet. The actual call went as follows:
Dispatcher: Just let me know if he does anything, ok?
Zimmerman: (unclear) See if you can get an officer over here.
Dispatcher: Yeah we’ve got someone on the way, just let me know if this guy does anything else.
Zimmerman: Okay. These [expletive] they always get away. Yep. When you come to the clubhouse you come straight in and make a left. Actually you would go past the clubhouse.
Dispatcher: So it’s on the lefthand side from the clubhouse?
The expletive is . . . “assh*les,” which wins Zimmerman no accolades from a finishing school but certainly is not indicative of a racist. Elsewhere on the tape, where Zimmerman was alleged by NBC to have muttered “f*cking coons” he, according to every expert, actually said “f*cking punks.”
As Zimmerman’s attorney writes in the complaint against NBC: “The truth, as known to the defendants, was that Zimmerman said ‘f—— punks’ and there was no evidence, or reason to believe, that Zimmerman uttered a racial epithet during the call.”
But wait, there’s more! In two additional March reports (on the 22nd and the 27th), bringing the total to a whopping five, the Peacock Network again brought together the “he’s up to no good” and “he looks black” statements.