George Zimmerman Suing NBC Over Edited 911 Tape
via Orlando Sentinel
George Zimmerman’s attorney on Thursday confirmed his client is considering a defamation lawsuit against NBC over the misleading editing of a recording that he said made his client “appear he is a racist.”
In a statement Thursday, Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara said NBC’s editing version of his client’s call to Sanford Police was “outrageous.”
“Due in large part to NBC’s actions, George has had to live in hiding, in fear for his life,” he wrote.
The audio, which aired March 27 on the “Today” show and in a report by an NBC-owned affiliate days earlier, made it sound as if Zimmerman volunteered to police that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was black in the call he made before the Feb. 26 shooting.
In the NBC-edited audio, Zimmerman says of Trayvon, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
But those two sentences are not back-to-back in the original audio. In between, a police dispatcher asked Zimmerman about Trayvon’s race.
Sorry George, but we didn’t need those tapes to make us think you were a racist.
NBC since apologized, and three employees were let go, according to reports. The network declined to comment on Thursday.
Jon Kaney, an experienced media lawyer and general counsel to Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, said there are several elements of defamation that need to be addressed in Zimmerman’s claim.
First of which is:
The most basic: Is the edited audio defamatory? That’s subject to interpretation, Kaney said.
“[Zimmerman] begins with an argument that’s based on an implication. NBC did not say he is a racist,”
Zimmerman went into hiding soon after the shooting, weeks before the “Today” report. In the interrim, the case sparked international outrage, focused largely on Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s high profile raises another key issue: Whether he was a public figure in the eyes of the law at the time of the alleged defamation.
If so, Kaney said, he’d have to show NBC “knew the statement was falsely made, or acted with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”
Tompkins says that although networks settle many defamation cases out of court, Zimmerman’s is not likely to be one of them.