What NBC’s Today show did was dishonest. Their explanation of it is disingenuous.
The network recently broadcast a portion of the 9-1-1 call in the Trayvon Martin shooting case that made shooter George Zimmerman look blatantly racist.
In the call, as aired by the Today show, Zimmerman told the dispatcher while observing the teen-age Martin, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
Well, that’s not exactly how it went down – and NBC knew it. The missing audio is clearly germane.
This is what Zimmerman actually said: “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.”
The dispatcher then asks Zimmerman for the person’s race. That is when he says “he looks black.”
It’s a significant, incendiary difference. In a racial climate that is combustible, someone at NBC chose to edit the 9-1-1 call to make things look worse than they were. And things were already pretty bad.
After being exposed, NBC issued a milquetoast apology: “During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.” The newtork wouldn’t say if anyone has been disciplined or fired.
There was an “error” made? Does that sound like a mere slip-up to you? That the already-short 9-1-1 conversation was edited to exclude the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicions and the reason why he mentioned Martin’s race?
The network’s explanation is dubious at best. It seems to us someone went out of his or her way to present Zimmerman – already a villain in many people’s minds – in the worst light possible. Even unethically changing the nature and meaning of the conversation in order to do it, which is dishonest.
What a sad, ominous chapter in the history of journalism.