Now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted of murder charges, he can get back to the lawsuit he filed against NBC Universal Media in December. Zimmerman sued the network for defamation after it ran an edited version of his 911 call the night of the altercation with Trayvon Martin.
On a March 27, 2012 broadcast of the “Today” show, NBC News modified the tape of Zimmerman’s comments to a police dispatcher on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, the Washington Post reported:
Here’s how NBC News portrayed the audiotape:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
The full tape went like this:
Zimmerman: 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 black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
The audio sounded like Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin, who was walking through the neighborhood, when in fact it was the dispatcher who asked a question about race.
“NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create illusions of statements that Zimmerman never actually made,” the lawsuit stated, according to the Post.
NBC was counting on a jury convicting Zimmerman to prove he was racist and justify its actions, the network said in court documents.
“[I]f Zimmerman is convicted, that fact alone will constitute substantial evidence that the destruction of his reputation is the result of his own criminal conduct, and not of the broadcasts at issue which, like countless other news reports disseminated by media entities throughout the country, reported on the underlying events,” NBC said in response to the Zimmerman complaint.
The case against NBC News was delayed pending the outcome of the criminal case, according to Zimmerman’s attorney James Beasley. With the trial over, Beasley said he and Zimmerman are ready to move forward.
“We’re going to start in earnest asap, we just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” Beasley told the Washington Post via e-mail.
“This verdict of not guilty is just that, and shows that at least this jury didn’t believe that George was a racist, profiling, or anything that the press accused George of being. That probably doesn’t get you that much but it’s simply time for us to start the case and hold accountable anyone who was irresponsible in their journalism,” Beasley said of the verdict’s effect on the civil case against NBC News.
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