George Zimmerman Is Suing NBC Over Doctored 911 Tapes

It looks like the courts will have the final say in the case of NBC’s reporting on George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is suing NBC, NBC correspondents Ron Allen and Lilia Rodriguez Luciano, and Jeff Burnside, a reporter for the NBC-owned station in Miami, over their blatantly dishonest editing of Zimmerman’s recorded conversation with police dispatchers. Luciano, Burnside, and an unnamed producer were fired by NBC after the issue came to light in the blogosphere.

(CNN) — George Zimmerman, charged in the shooting death of a 17-year-old Florida boy, sued NBC Universal on Thursday for using “the oldest form of yellow journalism” by editing an audio tape of his 911 call to make him sound racist, the lawsuit said.

Zimmerman is seeking “damages in excess of the jurisdictional limit” in Seminole County Circuit Court in Florida, where the lawsuit is filed.

Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and is charged with second-degree murder, is accused of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, who was African-American. The February incident has provoked national controversy.

…The lawsuit [also] accuses NBC of falsely claiming that Zimmerman said “f—ing coons” on the February 26 call.

“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,” the suit said.

Talk Left’s Jeralyn Merritt, who did a lot of the original legwork on the deceitful and inflammatory edits, recaps their pervasiveness at the networks of NBC:

So the blatant, racially charged distortion of George Zimmerman’s 911 call started on NBC 6 Miami on March 19, appearing in two articles by three different writers. It was repeated on March 20 in an article attributed to one of the three writers. The articles have been updated, but the quotes remain. The falsely portrayed quote aired on the Today Show on March 22 during a live segment with reporter Lilia Luciano, and again on March 27 with reporter Ron Allen.

For NBC and MSNBC to characterize the error as a single episode caused by a producer’s time constraints in getting a video clip ready for live morning television, which just unfortunately happened to be missed by layers of editorial control, is not very convincing.

While of course I have no way of knowing, it seems to me the botched editing was not an intentional attempt to smear George Zimmerman. I think it was the result of carelessness, inattention and incompetence. What’s truly disturbing is that editorial controls at NBC, MSNBC and NBC 6 Miami, all failed to catch the error, not once, but five times. That’s nothing short of inexcusable.

While the producer who put the clip together bears the initial blame, as do the reporters who included it in their live segments and the writers who included it in their articles, I think the people equally accountable and deserving of being fired are the script editor, the senior producers responsible for oversight, and those in the legal and standards review departments. It was their job to catch errors before they hit the airwaves and internet and they failed miserably. It’s like they were all out to lunch — all day for seven days. And the articles haven’t been corrected to this day.

There’s plenty of blame to go around at NBC. A court will decide if that blame is actionable.

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